Tour de France News for June 23, 2003
Edited by Jeff Jones & Chris Henry
Pevenage confident in Ullrich
Jan is back
Photo: © Sirotti
Jan Ullrich's long time mentor and sports director Rudy Pevenage believes
that Ullrich will be ready for the Tour de France, despite a difficult
spring. The financial problems with Team Coast nearly ended up with them
not riding the Tour at all, until Bianchi stepped in with a rescue package
for the team. Now, with three days to go until the end of the Tour de
Suisse, Ullrich is beginning to show the form that he'll need to stay
on par with the favourites in the mountains of the Tour.
Ullrich has the remarkable record of never having finished lower than
second in all the Tours that he has started in. But past records mean
little, especially after what Ullrich has been through in the last year.
His stated aim has been to try and win a stage with a view to doing well
in next year's Tour, but as Pevenage told Het Laatste Nieuws yesterday,
"With Jan, you never know."
"Isn't it understandable that he really doesn't want too much pressure
on his shoulders? For a team like ours it's not obvious how to compete
with US Postal. When we began with Coast, Jan and I thought: good, with
Beltran with us we are well placed for the cols. What's left now? Angel
Casero, but he's not a born helper. And further: Garmendia, Plaza. It's
a little bit tight."
Certainly Bianchi is no Telekom or US Postal, although with Ullrich
back at the helm and looking good, sponsorship interest should be greater
for next season. Ullrich has the capability and the talent to do very
well at the top level, and the second half of the season should see him
back to his best. An important factor is Ullrich's weight problem, which
in the years after he won the Tour in '97 saw him put too many kilos on
in winter and struggle to lose them in spring in time for the next Tour.
This year, that hasn't been an issue.
Suffering on stage 5
Photo: © Sirotti
Pevenage's response: "Because he wanted it himself. Finally. For my part
I've stopped hammering him continuously about it."
As for his current form, Ullrich has been a little sick during the Tour
de Suisse, and has had problems breathing. "I'm taking antibiotics and
will look after myself here, but already it's going better today," said
Ullrich before the start of stage
6 where he finished second, a big improvement on yesterday's
2'52 loss to Casagrande.
Ullrich's next test will be the 33 km time trial on Tuesday, then he
will line up for the German National Championships next Sunday.
Demol: Heras, Hincapie in good shape
Photo: © AFP
After finishing second overall in the Volta
a Catalunya, Roberto Heras (US Postal-Berry Floor) is in excellent
shape, according to team director Dirk Demol. "Roberto rode a great race,"
said Demol. "Even though he finished second, I feel he is in better shape
right now than he was when we won Catalunya last year. We simply could
not stop (Jose Antonio) Pecharroman."
Pecharroman won the race by a margin of 43 seconds, after storming to
victory in the Stage 6 uphill time trial, where he beat Heras by 52 seconds.
"After Saturday's time trial, Roberto got in the car with me and realized
he had lost the race to Pecharroman," said Demol, who together with Heras
was very impressed by Pecharroman. "For the first ten minutes, the only
word he could say over and over again was 'unbelievable.' He could not
believe he lost over 50 seconds to him in 13 kms. Roberto rode strong,
beating world (time trial) champion (Santiago) Botero and the rest, but
nobody could believe Pecharroman. I have seen races like this, but mainly
from riders like Lance (Armstrong). I think there is no doubt we saw a
future champion (today)."
"But overall, our team rode a super race. Roberto was second, we were
second in the team time trial stage and George (Hincapie) was second in
the last stage and second in the points competition," added Demol. "After
a full week of racing, George rode strong again today and nearly won.
He is really back and in great shape."
The team will announced its final Tour de France roster later this week.
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