By Andrew Hood
Time specialist Michael Rich (Gerolsteiner) won Monday’s 23.7-kilometer race against the clock in Karlsruhe to open the week-long Tour of Germany.
Coming through second was 1997 Tour de France champion Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) at 24 seconds with Uwe Peschel (Gerolsteiner) taking third at 29 seconds slower.
“I wanted to find out where I stood and it looks pretty good,” said Ullrich, who returned to competition after a five-week break. “I want to use one or two stages to find out how strong I am but I should not be expected to win. The only thing for sure is that I won’t finish last.”
Ullrich pulled out of the spring classics, a move that sent tongues wagging about the form of the often-troubled German rider who’s been runner-up five times in the Tour. The 30-year-old German recently finished a training session in the French Alps before starting the German tour Monday.
The Tour of Germany continues Tuesday with the 180-kilometer second stage from Bad Urach to Wangen im Allgäu.
Tour of Germany (GER 2.2), Stage 1, Karlsruhe-Karlsruhe, 23km ITT
1. Michael Rich (G), Gerolsteiner 27 minutes, 20 seconds
2. Jan Ullrich (G), T-Mobile +0:24
3. Uwe Peschel (G), Gerolsteiner +0:29
4. Daniel Becke (G), Illes Balears +0:33
5. Sebastian Lang (G), Gerolsteiner +0:35
Cunego on cloud nine
Giro d’Italia winner Damiano Cunego is the toast of Italy after unexpectedly roaring to overall victory in the season’s first grand tour.
Cunego was expected to start to his second Giro start as a helper to Saeco team captain Gilberto Simoni. Instead, the 22-year-old snatched four stage victories and held off a final-day assault from Simoni and 2002 Giro winner Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola) to claim the pink jersey.
Here’s how Cunego described his feelings to Italian TV after popping the champagne on the winner’s podium in sunny Milano: “Unexpected — because I never expected to win four stages and the pink jersey. Emotional — because the support of the thousands of fans along the road is an incredible sensation. Moving — because this win is a team win by the whole of the Team Saeco staff and no one is excluded, not even Gilberto Simoni who was the pre-race favorite to win the Giro.”
Cunego is scheduled to race in some post-Giro criteriums this week before taking a well-deserved break. He’ll skip the Tour with hopes of earning a spot on the Italian national team for the Olympics and the world championships.
“I’m still a bit young for the Tour de France and may even wait until 2006 before taking part but I’d love to ride in the Olympic Games in Athens this summer,” Cunego said. “I’m already thinking about the world championships in Verona in October because I won the world junior title in 1999 and would love to be part of the Italian team.”
Armstrong rides the Mortirolo
While the Giro d’Italia was working their way up the Gavia on Saturday, five-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong was working his way up the Mortirolo in a training junket from nearby St. Moritz.
Armstrong described the Mortirolo to La Gazzetta dello Sport: “It’s a terrible climb, perfect for a mountain bike. On the most difficult sections I was riding a 39×27. I was really hurt. It’s the hardest climb I’ve ever done.”
Armstrong’s reconnoiter of the famed climbed raised hopes that the Texan might race next year’s Giro. The Texan has skipped the challenging Giro since his remarkable cancer comeback, preferring to train at altitude and race selected events in a run-up to the Tour.
Voigt, Julich train at altitude
Jens Voigt spent much of May training at altitude near Reno, Nev., with Team CSC Bobby Julich. The pair went there following the Tour de Georgia in late April and Voigt seemed to enjoy himself.
“The first week we took it easy and tried to recover from a tough spring season. I knocked around some golf balls for the first time in my life and Bobby tried to teach me how to gamble in the casinos. He was quite good, but I just lost money,” Voigt said on the team’s web page. “It’s a beautiful scenery, where he lives and we were lucky in terms of weather with only one cold, rainy day where we had to cancel the training.”
Voigt returned to Europe two weeks, when he promptly won the Bayern Rundfahrt. He’s now racing in the Tour of Germany, where he finished eighth in Monday’s time trial.