What now for T-Mobile?

Andreas Kl”den's personal triumph and Jan Ullrich's despair on La Mongie leave T-Mobile boss Walter

Andreas Kl”den’s personal triumph and Jan Ullrich’s despair on La Mongie leave T-Mobile boss Walter

PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Poignantly, it was in order of finishing position that T-Mobile pair Andreas Klden and Jan Ullrich were tossed to the pack of media wolves at La Mongie this evening. Klden first, Ullrich second. The shape of things to come, perhaps. Judging by the time the two spent holed before fulfilling their media duties, the T-Mobile camper van was either the scene of an uncomfortable silence or a hasty reshuffle of the T-Mobile hierarchy. Either way, two former East Germans seemed to send out mixed messages when they finally stepped out. Klden, third on the stage, 20 seconds behind Ivan Basso, was the first to speak: “Jan is still the leader of this team,” he said, apparently impervious to the reality that he now leads Ullrich by almost two-and-a-half minutes on general classification. “The situation hasn’t changed: I am 100% behind Jan. I am not interested in personal glory. We will still try to attack in the coming days. “Jan always has problems in the wet,” Klden, 29, continued. “If I feel stronger than Jan again on another stage, we will decide then how to react. Today Mario Kummer (T-Mobile directeur sportif – Ed) told me to stay with the front group after Jan was dropped. My only regret is that I couldn’t follow Armstrong and Basso.” While, loyal to Ullrich and his East German upbringing, Klden seemed keen to tow the party line, Ullrich was more candid. And more realistic perhaps, given that he now lies 16th on GC compared to Klden’s third, and trails Armstrong by close to four minutes. “I will always ride for the strongest rider on the team,” the erstwhile Kaiser said revealingly. “It was a very bad day for me: I had very bad legs,” Ullrich admitted. “On the descent from the Aspin I could feel that my legs weren’t good. As a professional cyclist, you have to forget about days like this. At least, as a result of today’s stage, we have a joker in the pack in Klden; I will ride for the best man, whoever that turns out to be. I fought right through to the bitter end today.” Several metres away, in the midst of his own scrum of journalists, T-Mobile boss Walter Godefroot was asked to compare the dilemma he faces tonight with the 1997 Tour, when it was Ullrich who usurped the more experienced Bjarne Riis. “It’s not the same,” Godefroot claimed, “because Klden isn’t as strong as Jan was in 1997.”