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By Agence France Presse
Former cycling great Rudi Altig has added to the pressure on Jan Ullrich by saying the German is uncommitted in his bid to win back the Tour de France yellow jersey.
Ullrich, 31, has come runner-up five times in the Tour de France – which he won in 1997 – and three of those have come behind American Lance Armstrong.
Armstrong currently leads the race with more than a minute’s advantage over Ullrich ahead of two crucial medium mountain stages this weekend, where the German could – if he’s ambitious – try to attack the 33-year-old Texan and upset his plans for a seventh consecutive crown before he retires.
However, Altig appears to have already guessed the outcome of the race – and says he is growing weary of Ullrich’s constant letdowns.
What do you want me to say?” Altig responded when asked in L’Equipe about Ullrich’s performance in the opening time trial, where he lost over a minute to Armstrong.
“He’s beginning to tire me. With Ullrich, it’s always the same thing. Last year, he won the Tour of Switzerland in the mountains, this year he lost it in the mountains – and his team (T-Mobile) continue to tell us that he’s stronger than he was last year. I don’t think they’re doing him any favors.”
Altig, who was a rival to five-time Tour de France winner Jacques Anquetil and wore the yellow jersey 18 times, said Germans have had just about enough of waiting for Ullrich to fulfill his potential.
“Jan earns 250,000 euros a month, but what does he give back to cycling? Before the Tour he didn’t even bother to come and race the national championships. And the most astonishing thing is that at T-Mobile, nobody bothers to question him. In any case, no one can say anything to him. It seems he’s a law unto himself.”
Ullrich’s bid to beat Armstrong over the past few years has almost always come unstuck in the mountains, where the pace of the American’s team, which is now Discovery Channel, has proved too fast for many of his rivals.
Altig agreed that to beat the American, Ullrich would have to surpass himself and, for once, attack Armstrong. That is, if he still has the desire to win – something that Armstrong has shown in spades in his six-year reign.
“He has to start by attacking Armstrong, by putting him in danger – otherwise, there’s nothing to hope for,” Altig said. “But I think Ullrich is just not interested in his job any more. It’s a shame. If he took the same approach as Armstrong, with the same degree of enthusiasm and seriousness, the American wouldn’t have won six Tours de France.
“Jan’s got more class, but he just doesn’t work hard enough.”