Ullrich grabs gold; Leipheimer barely misses podium
By John Wilcockson
With 6.2km remaining of Thursday’s elite men’s time trial, at the high point of the Lisbon course, 770 feet above sea level, it looked as though the race was over. Leading the 38.7km world championship by seven seconds over Colombia’s Santiago Botero was Britain’s David Millar, while prerace favorite Jan Ullrich seemed to be fighting a losing battle in third place, 10 seconds back. All that remained was a steep descent, a short uphill and a fast downhill to a tail-wind run to the finish, 500 feet below. And when Millar crossed the line to improve Botero’s earlier best time of 52:01 by five seconds, it looked as though the gold medal was his.
But that was without taking into account the extraordinary power of Ullrich, who has been preparing for these world’s — principally the road race — as never before. The 27-year-old German cranked up his 54×11 gear all the way down the final, mainly downhill 4km to eclipse Millar’s 51:56 by more than six seconds. Ullrich had won the time-trial crown for the second time in three years.
“I’m very disappointed,” said a disconsolate Millar, who had led at every time check on the two laps of this difficult Lisbon course.
Ullrich didn’t score this sensational victory with just brute force though. And he didn’t owe it to the tactic he adopted of “saving something for the second lap,” after dropping as much as 21 seconds behind Millar 13km into the race. Nor was it the other thing he said helped him — a one-on-one battle over the final 3km with his minute-man Laszlo Bodrogi of Hungary, who caught back to Ullrich after being passed by the German on a steep climb 7km from the finish.
No, what won Ullrich the title was the singular fighting spirit he has shown this year, ever since finding it in his duel with Lance Armstrong at the Tour de France. Here in Portugal, Ullrich didn’t take losing as an option.
In the excitement of Ullrich’s phenomenal finish — he took back 16 seconds in those last 6km — another startling performance was forgotten. After holding third place for most of the muggy afternoon, generally 11 or 12 seconds down on Millar and six or seven seconds ahead of Ullrich, America’s Levi Leipheimer faded slightly at the end to finish in fourth place.
“It’s like the worst place,” said the California-based rider. But though upset about missing a medal he was realistic about his performance. “It’s hard…. I did the biggest effort of my life at the Vuelta to get on the podium, and I was pretty tired last week. So to be in contention here, I can’t be too disappointed.”
Interestingly, while the top three went off to collect their medals, and others sat disconsolately in their team cabins, wiping sweat from their bodies or changing into dry clothes, Leipheimer donned a warm-up suit and methodically warmed-down on a turbo-trainer. This wasn’t his last race of the year — as it was for 36th-placed Jonathan Vaughters. America’s latest star cyclist was already thinking ahead to the road race championship on Sunday, and perhaps another big performance.
Leipheimer admitted that his newly won status has earned him several substantial offers from other teams, and that he will almost certainly leave the U.S. Postal Service squad next year. Has he signed for a new team? “No,” he said, “but I hope to have it tied up before I leave here on Sunday.”
If Leipheimer does prove to be a contender on Sunday then he shouldn’t take his eyes off that man Ullrich. Millar learned that lesson in the harshest way possible on Thursday.
1. ULLRICH Jan (G), 51:50.0;
2. MILLAR David (GB), 51:56.3, at 0:6.3;
3. BOTERO ECHEVERRY Santiago (Col), 52:01.7, at 0:11.73;
4. LEIPHEIMER Levy (USA), 52:14.7, at 0:24.7;
5. BODROGI Laszlo (Hun), 52:50.4, at 1:00.37;
6. HOSTE Leif (B), 52:54.3, at 1:04.27;
7. GONZALEZ CAPILLA Santos (Sp), 53:16.5, at 1:26.55;
8. O’NEILL Nathan (Aus), 53:18.9, at 1:28.88;
9. PLAZA ROMERO David (Sp), 53:35.8, at 1:45.77;
10. BLAUDZUN Michael (Dk), 53:41.4, at 1:51.39;
11. HONCHAR Serhiy (Ukr), 53:45.3, at 1:55.29;
12. CHMIELEWSKI Piotr (Pol), 53:55.9, at 2:05.94;
13. NUTTLI Jean (Swi), 53:57.6, at 2:07.63;
14. GREEN Roland (Can), 54:07.7, at 2:17.70;
15. CANCELLARA Fabian (Swi), 54:13.6, at 2:23.60;
16. BONDARENKO Denis (Rus), 54:21.2, at 2:31.17;
17. MATTAN Nico (B), 54:24.3, at 2:34.30;
18. PRZYDZIAL Piotr (Pol), 54:29.1, at 2:39.11;
19. SEIGNEUR Eddy (F), 54:30.1, at 2:40.13;
20. PETROV Evgeni (Rus), 54:31.6, at 2:41.57;
21. ROGERS Michael (Aus), 54:34.8, at 2:44.85;
22. HRUSKA Jan (Cz), 54:42.8, at 2:52.78;
23. MIZOUROV Andrei (Kz), 54:54.2, at 3:04.22;
24. NARDELLO Daniele (I), 55:24.8, at 3:34.81;
25. PINOTTI Marco (I), 55:26.6, at 3:36.58;
26. GEORGE David (SA), 55:28.2, at 3:38.19;
27. WOHLBERG Eric (Can), 55:28.8, at 3:38.83;
28. ADREGO ANDRADE Joaquim (Por), 55:31.9, at 3:41.87;
29. VOIGT Jens (G), 55:36.7, at 3:46.74;
30. VALACH Jan (Svk), 55:37.8, at 3:47.83;
31. GOMES OLIVEIRA Joaquim (Por), 55:46.8, at 3:56.79;
32. KLYMENKO Oleksandr (Ukr), 56:00.3, at 4:10.30;
33. PEREZ ARANGO Marlon Alirio (Col), 56:09.5, at 4:19.55;
34. BRARD Florent (F), 56:11.9, at 4:21.95;
35. VAN DER VEN Remco (Nl), 56:17.7, at 4:27.69;
36. VAUGHTERS Jonathan (USA), 56:23.9, at 4:33.87;
37. BELOHVOSCIKS Raivis (Lat), 56:25.8, at 4:35.85;
38. VOSKAMP Bart (Nl), 56:37.3, at 4:47.33;
39. COX Ryan (SA), 56:43.8, at 4:53.77;
40. MCCANN David (Irl), 56:45.2, at 4:55.25;
41. COTAR Martin (Cro), 56:49.8, at 4:59.80;
42. KASHECHKIN Andrey (Kz), 56:52.7, at 5:02.73;
43. DANGERFIELD Stuart (GB), 57:11.6, at 5:21.58;
44. GABROVSKI Ivaïlo (Bul), 57:14.5, at 5:24.48;
45. HOJ Frank (Dk), 57:24.3, at 5:34.27;
46. DIMITROV Dimitar (Bul), 57:37.2, at 5:47.23;
47. MAHORIC Mitja (Slo), 58:06.8, at 6:16.79;
48. IRATOV Damir (Uzb), 58:13.1, at 6:23.15;
49. LEGRADI Peter (Hun), 58:17.0, at 6:26.98;
50. NIKACEVIC Alexandar (Yu), 58:53.0, at 7:02.97;
51. OKAZAKI Kazuya (Jp), 00:22.5, at 8:32.50;
52. ANASTOPOULOS Vasilos (Gr), 01:55.7, at 10:05.69.