By Jan Ullrich, T-Mobile professional cycling team
I made the final podium in Paris! Well, assuming nothing happens on the final ride to the finish.
For me, today’s time trial went pretty much as I had hoped and expected. What happened to Mickael Rasmussen was absolutely awful for him. I regret not winning the stage, but I have to admit that Lance was, once again, the best one out there.
For T-Mobile, we earned two very beautiful stage wins – the two won by Vino’ and Guero’- but again, we come away without the one prize we had our eyes on: the yellow jersey. The fact that we failed in that effort yet again is disappointing to us as a team and to me personally.
Conversely, I feel very proud of how we came together as a team and fought throughout the entire Tour. To have reached the podium, even after those two crashes, makes me proud. I have to say, however, I don’t think I would have won this Tour even if I had not crashed. Lance was simply too strong and you have to admit that.
Tomorrow in Paris, one of the greatest sportsmen of his time leaves cycling. With physical strength, mental focus and incredible ambition, he exercised his power over the Tour de France in a way no one ever has – including me.
He said he plans to leave his bike in the corner for a while and contemplate his future. I’m sure we’ll hear of him again. Perhaps he will say more about his future tomorrow. Speaking of tomorrow, Lance has invited me to the victory and retirement party. Of course, I plan to attend and am honored by the invitation. I honestly have to offer my heartfelt congratulations and best wishes to Lance!
I also got a very nice surprise today at the start, when my friend Sara suddenly appeared. I had believed that she would be meeting in Paris, but here she was a day early. I also got a visit from the bicycle racer Jutta Kleinschmidt and the chairman of the board René Obermann came to the team bus and wished me luck. All of this provided me with another boost of motivation and it helped me ride as well as I did.
Tonight, before our long transfer, I have some live interviews and then we take the final ride to Paris. Tomorrow’s route d’honneur in Paris is always a wonderful experience with thousands lining the roads, the finish line and then a small celebration with our closest friends and staff.