By Andrew Hood
After a halting start to his season, former Tour de France champion and four-time runner-up Jan Ullrich said Sunday that it is probably unrealistic for him to expect to contest for overall victory in this year’s Tour de France, adding that the Vuelta a España and the world championships are his top targets for the year.
“I am not placing myself under any special pressure, because I could not carry out perfect preparation for the Tour,” the German cyclist, who won the world’s toughest cycling race in 1997, told NZZ am Sonntag.
Ullrich, who is taking on the Tour of Switzerland starting on Monday, returned to racing in April after missing all of last year because of knee problems and a suspension for using recreational drugs.
Since his return, however, he has been sidelined by injury for three weeks and financial troubles at Team Coast also forced Ullrich to turn to the newly-formed Bianchi team, only racing with the new sponsor for the first time last month in the Tour of Germany.
The 29-year-old reiterated that he wanted to battle for the yellow jersey in the grueling French race again in 2004.
“Of course, I do want to reach a good place on the leader board this year,” Ullrich said, “but my main targets remain the Vuelta in September and the world championships thereafter.”
Ullrich noted that four-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong is in “very strong and sovereign” form in the Dauphine Libere, which the U.S. rider is leading going into Sunday’s final stage.
Bianchi team manager Rudy Pevenage said he, too, has set a modest target for his star performer.
“We’re not going to the Tour to win it. If Ullrich can win a stage, I would be satisfied,” Pevenage told the Sunday edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine.
Pevenage said he expected Ullrich to struggle in the mountain stages, although that portion of the race is traditionally one of the German’s strengths.
“I can’t imagine that we’ll make much progress in that part of the Tour,” Pevenage said. “With Manuel Beltran and Alex Zülle out of the race, Jan will lack support.”
After the financial collapse of Coast, Beltran left and signed with Postal. For that reason, Pevenage said, Bianchi is hurriedly trying to recruit a climbing specialist this week.
“We’re in discussions with a good climber,” he said, declining to specify with whom the team is speaking.
— Copyright AFP2003
Elmiger gets win at Gippingen
Phonak’s Martin Elmiger took bragging rights in the GP Gippigen in Switzerland on Sunday. The one-day race is a primer for the Tour de Suisse, which kicks off Monday. Elmiger was part of a breakaway in the hilly course and edged Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) and Serguei Ivanov (Fassa Bortolo) to take the win. American Bobby Julich (Telekom) finished 23rd at 36 seconds back.
40th GP Gippigen (UCI 1.1), Switzerland, 196km
1. Martin Elmiger (Swi), Phonak 5 hours, 18 seconds
2. Paolo Bettini (I), Quick Step
3. Serguei Ivanov (Rus), Fassa Bortolo
4. Michael Skelde (Den) Team fakta
5. Steffen Wesemann (G), Telekom
6. Jan Ullrich (G), Team Bianchi — all same time23. Bobby Julich (USA), Team Telekom at 36 seconds
Glomser wins Tour of Austria
Saeco’s Gerrit Glomser won two stages en route to taking the overall title at the seven-stage Tour of Austria, which wrapped up Sunday in Vienna. The race didn’t feature a time trial, but offered plenty of steeps as it wound around Austria. Glomser won the second and third stages and then held on take the final victory. Belgian Tom Steels (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) took the final stage on a 124km circuit course in Vienna on Sunday.Tour of Austria (UCI 2.3), June 9-15
Stage 1, Salzburg-Salzburg, 131km: Steffen Radochla (G), TeamBianchi
Stage 2, Salzburg to Bad Hofgastein, 189km: Gerrit Glomser (Aut), Saeco
Stage 3, Bad Gastein to Kizbuhler Horn, 158km: Glomser
Stage 4, Kitzbuhel to St. Jakob, 149km: Nico Sijmens (B), Vlaanderen-T Interim
Stage 5, Lienz to St. Kanzian, 200km: Matteo Carrara (I) DeNardi-Colpack
Stage 6, St. Kanzian to Graz, 157km: Sijmens
Stage 7, Vienna circuit, 124km: Tom Steels (B), Landbouwkrediet-ColnagoFinal overall standings
1. Gerrit Glomser (Aut), Saeco 27 hours, 17 minutes, 33 seconds
2. Jure Golcer (Slo), Volksbank at 42 seconds
3. Hans-Peter Obwaller (Aut), Austrian team at 1:08
4. Valter Bronca (Slo) Perutnina at 1:21
5. Leonardo Bertagnolli (I), Saeco at 1:33
Heras back to defend Cataluyna title
U.S. Postal’s Roberto Heras is back to defend his title at the 83rd Tour of Catalunya (June 16-22) and the Posties are hoping for another repeat coming on the heels of Armstrong’s overall win at the Dauphiné Libéré.
Heras has been quiet through much of the 2003 season, but that’s typical for the quiet Spanish rider. Heras will be looking to be in top shape to help Armstrong in the upcoming Tour and then make a run at the Vuelta a Espana, where he finished second last year to Aitor Gonzalez.
The Tour of Cataluyna opens with a team time trial Monday in Salou along the Mediterranean Coast and then heads up to Andorra for some steep mountain stages in what’s the preferred primer for most of the Spanish Tour contenders. There’s an individual time trial in stage 6 and the race ends in Barcelona on June 22.
The 83rd Tour of Cataluyna:
Stage 1, June 16, Salou to Vilaseca, TTT, 26.7km
Stage 2, June 17, More d’Ebre to El Morell, 183km
Stage 3, June 18, La Pobla de Mafumet to Andorra (summit finish),216km
Stage 4, June 19, La Vella to Llivia (Three Cat. 1 climbs),157km
Stage 5, June 20, Llivia to Manresa (Cat. 1 climb early), 166km
Stage 6, June 21, Molins de Rei to Vall Vidrera, ITT, (300 meterclimb in first 6.5km, then rolling into short uphill finish), 13.1km
Stage 7, June 22, Joan Despi to Barcelona (up and down finalewith two Cat. 2s and two Cat. 3s, short climbing finish), 128kmTeams:
Spain: iBanesto.com, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Kelme, Labarca 2-Café Baqué, ONCE, Paternina-Costa Almeria, Relax-Fuenlabrada
Italy: Fassa Bortolo, Caldirola-Sidermec
Germany: Gerolsteiner, Telekom
USA: U.S. Postal Service
German cyclist killed in Sweden
A German cyclist was killed and four Danes were badly injured when they were hit by a car during the VätternRundan, a mass ride in Sweden, police said on Sunday.
The German, whose identity was not being released until his family is informed, was among 15,000 people taking part in the race around Lake Vattern on Saturday when he was run down by the car, driven by a man who himself had participated in the race for a 16-hour stretch.
Two of the Danes required surgery and the other two suffered multiple fractures. They were all in a stable condition, said police officer Anders Wallin.
The driver of the car was arrested and questioned. He faces charges including reckless driving and manslaughter, said Wallin.
— Copyright AFP2003