Ullrich admits preparation mistakes
Posted: Wednesday September 23, 1998 05:07 PM
LE CREUSOT, France (CNN/SI) -- Not all the lessons learned in this year's Tour de France were drug-related. Jan Ullrich the 1997 winner of the Tour de France said that his failure to successfully defend his yellow jersey was a useful lesson for his future.
In 1997 a youthful Ullrich was crowned as Germany's sporting hero when he became the first German to ever win cycling's most prestigious event.Ullrich who grew up in the former East Germany prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall had been tipped to be the first cyclist to break the shared record of five tour victories. Four cyclists hold this record, including Miguel Indurain who is the only cyclist to ever win the tour five times consecutively (1991-1995).
This time, despite winning three stages -- the two time trials and one mountain stage in Albertville -- the 24-year-old will have to be content with second place as in 1996.
"I'm not going to make the same mistakes as last year," said Ullrich, who spent most of his time after the 1997 Tour celebrating or giving interviews. Hard work is now going to be top of his priorities.
"It is too early to say whether I would do this or that but I don't rule out anything, not even the world championships. I'm planning to take part in a number of World Cup races and maybe even stage races," he said.
"I shall make my decision in three or four weeks, depending on my form," he added.
Last year, Ullrich entered only one major race after the tour, the Swiss Grand Prix, and took second place despite an obvious lack of training.
This year, he was very late in his preparation and was seen to be overweight in the winter. Only real competition, in the Tour of Switzerland and the Route du Sud, brought him back to fighting weight.
Now Ullrich does not rule out starting the Tour of Spain next month for the first time.
"My Telekom team will be there for sure. Me, I don't think so, but we'll see," he said.
Despite his loss, Ullrich's tour performance was again impressive and had he not cracked in the crucial Alpine stage to les Deux Alpes, in which he lost nearly nine minutes to Pantani, he would probably have made it two wins in a row.
Rain and cold did him down that day but he still had reasons to be cheerful. He reacted as a true champion by winning the second Alpine stage between Vizille and Albertville.
He also won the two time trials of this tour, making him the most successful rider of his generation in the discipline. He has now won four time trials in three Tours.
"I really did my best today. I gave it all I had. But I knew I could not beat Pantani because he had already shown in the Giro he could be good in time trials," he said.
Like most of the 95 other riders left in the field, Ullrich admitted he was relieved that this year's race, tarnished by a major doping scandal, was over."I don't want to talk about it once more. Today we saw that the crowd are still happy to support the riders. Sport won."
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