Jan Ullrich still yearns to win the Tour de France, it’s just that, from now on, he won’t admit it.
Jan Ullrich will be more guarded about his ambitions to win the Tour de France in future, the German indicated on Monday, four months after his ego took its latest bruising at the hands of Lance Armstrong. Speaking at a press conference organised by his T-Mobile team in the Hague, Ullrich vowed “never to talk about winning the Tour de France again.[even if] the desire still exists.” The 30-year-old Kaiser admitted that the harsh lessons of five failed Tour bids since his victory in 1997 have taught him “to be more cautious in future.” While Ullrich’s perennial nemesis Lance Armstrong considers switching his focus to the spring Classics, Ullrich confirmed today that he will adopt the opposite tactic – skipping races like Lige-Bastogne-Lige and Flche Wallonne to dedicate all his energies to the Tour in 2005. After a one-month training camp in South Africa in December, Ullrich plans to begin his season at the Tour of Murcia, in Spain, in March. On the prospect of Armstrong shunning the Tour, the German conceded: “I would like to beat the best in the world at the biggest stage-race in the world.” That scenario hinges on Armstrong, naturally, but also on Ullrich’s age-old poser – the lingering midwinter midriff. Last year, Ullrich’s weight problems were a burning embarrassment for his T-Mobile team and surely one of the reasons why he performed so poorly in France. His fourth-place finish in Paris was his worst ever in the Tour de France. Today the German did his best to appear repentant as he revealed: “I am trying to pay more attention to my weight.” “Now I am trying to go my own way towards building a good preparation for the Tour, so as not to be chasing my form all the time,” he added. If comfort eating is off the agenda, then at least Ullrich can find solace in a partial reconciliation between T-Mobile boss Walter Godefroot and Ullrich’s coach and mentor, Rudy Pevenage. Under the terns of a new agreement between the former colleagues, Pevenage will now be allowed to follow Ullrich from the T-Mobile team car in time trials at the Tour. “It’s a good thing and it makes sense for Jan,” Pevenage said today. Of the disharmony in the T-Mobile camp in 2004, Ullrich added: “The misunderstandings in the background have been cleared up after some constructive discussions.”