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T-Mobile’s Tour de France hopeful Jan Ullrich has had to delay the start to his 2006 season as a knee problem has forced him to withdraw from the circuit de la Sarthe in France on April 4.
T-Mobile team doctor Andreas Schmid confirmed Wednesday that Ullrich had irritated an old injury to his right knee sustained in early March and was not fit to race at Sarthe.
“I was really looking forward to competitive racing,” said a disappointed Ullrich.
“From now on I will pay more attention to ensure the irritation is fully healed, then I can progressively increase the training load,” he said. “When the knee is better I will start to prepare for the Tour with my usual discipline.”
Ullrich, who decided to forego the one-day spring classics, is now expected to start competitive racing at the Tour of Romandie in Switzerland on April 25.
With seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong now in retirement the 32-year-old Ullrich is one of the favorites when this year’s Tour begins on July 1 in Strasbourg.
However, all his major rivals have already shown their early season form this month with Italian Ivan Basso winning the challenging three-stage Criterium International, Kazakhstan’s Alexandre Vinokourov claiming overall victory in the Tour of Castilla and Leon and American Floyd Landis winning the inaugural Tour of California and the week-long Paris-Nice.
Ullrich, third last year, won the Tour in 1997 and has finished runner up five times, three of them behind Armstrong.