German cycling ace Jan Ullrich is basing his entire season around trying to win a second Tour de France.
As six-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong’s participation remains up in the air, Ullrich on Monday made it clear he was hungrier than ever to add to his 1997 success.
“The Tour is the race that I want to win," said the T-Mobile rider, who has finished runner-up five times but could only manage fourth last year. That, it should be noted, was his worst ever finish in seven Tour de France starts.
"I’m in training to be the best in the world. I want to once again prove something to myself; I know my prospects are getting better day by day,” Ullrich said at the unveiling of T-Mobile’s 2005 line-up here. Ullrich’s personal ambition is mirrored by that of his team.
"We can’t say we’ll be satisfied with fifth place," noted one of T-Mobile’s managers, Olaf Ludwig. "When we’ve got three cyclists aiming for a top three finish there’s only one objective – and that’s to win the Tour." After a three-week training camp in South Africa, Ullrich’s condition is said to be far better than at the same stage last year.
"He’s worked hard in December, we’re ready to attack," said another T-Mobile manager Walter Godefroot.
After further training in the hills of Tuscany, Ullrich is aiming at making his seasonal debut in early March in the Tour of Murcia with the 2000 Olympic champion preferring a quiet build-up to the 2005 Tour. Ullrich will be helped in his pursuit of a second title in cycling’s blue ribboned by veteran sprinter Erik Zabel, the 2002 Vuelta a España runner up Oscar Sevilla, Francisco Lara and German sprinter Olaf Pollack.
Italian rider Paolo Savoldelli has jumped ship, joining Lance Armstrong’s Discovery Channel outfit.