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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

90th Tour de France - July 5-27, 2003

Ich bin überglücklich!

Turbo-charged Ullrich burns everyone off in TT

By Gabriella Ekström in Cap Découverte

Jan's back
Photo: © Sirotti

The road temperature going up to the Jurassic-like theme park in Découverte was an incredible 61 degrees, and the road had more or less been climbing constantly for 40 kilometres before hitting the foot of the final punishment. At the end of the stage 12 time trial, the gap between the top ten riders was a massive five minutes, and as a sudden change in the Tour routine the winner was not Lance Armstrong, but Jan Ullrich. Surprised and overjoyed, the Team Bianchi captain climbed onto the podium in the baking heat, and in the wake of Joseba Beloki, the Tour now has another interesting runner up.

"I was very nervous yesterday," Jan Ullrich explained after the stage. "To relax myself I had a really nice dinner, and after that I managed to get a good night's rest, and this morning I had a final look at the course. I knew I would have to ride very slow in the beginning, because there were several dangerous curves in the first kilometre, and I didn't want to risk anything, but after that I tried to stick to a steady but high rhythm. As I went along, I felt better and better, and I got very encouraged by hearing that I was ahead of Lance Armstrong at the first time check. I also made sure I drank sufficiently, because the heat was cruel."

Ullrich's 1'35" advantage over Armstrong who came in second on today's stage, put the German powerhouse up to second on GC, only 34 seconds behind the defending champion. Despite the fact that a lot of other riders have predicted that Ullrich will be great in the Pyrenées, and that his performance today was one of the highlights of the Tour, Ullrich cannot make any promises.

"I did not start the Tour as a rider for the general classification, despite what some people might have thought. I wanted to prove myself with a stage win, but I didn't expect it would be such a great one. I was surprised when I heard the time gap I had to Armstrong, and that puts me in a situation I have still to reflect on."

Ullrich continued, "I was sick with fever in the beginning of the race, maybe because of something I ate, and therefore I expected to lose time, especially in the Alps. But my team did a great time trial on the fourth stage, and in the end I didn't lose that much in the mountains. During the last days I have felt better and better every day, but that doesn't change the fact that the next stages will be very hard."

Having made the final comeback after his suspension, Ullrich now leaves it up to Lance to set the pace in the coming days, and does not exaggerate his jersey ambitions when talking to the press.

"I knew I would come back to the Tour to fight for the yellow jersey again, but I expected that moment to come at least one year from now. This is my big day, and I don't know about tomorrow. The stage to Aix 3 Domaines will probably be my hardest test because I have to see what my condition will be like after my illness and after my performance here today. The Pyrenées will be hard, but I can relax myself with the fact that they will be just as hard for everyone."

After stating that his level of performance today came unexpectedly, Ullrich's last comment leaves a glimpse of hope that another great battle is still to come.

"I will have to say that this extreme heat is to my advantage, because I've always liked riding in the heat very much, and I'm also highly motivated by my performance today."

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