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Jan Ullrich TextPortrait
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Racing cyclist Jan Ullrich TextPortrait by Ralph Ueltzhoeffer

Posted on Bike Hugger

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Jan Ullrich – Portrait – Ralph Ueltzhoeffer – Jan Ullrich (born December 2, 1973 in Rostock, Germany) is a German professional road bicycle racer. In 1997, he was the first German to win the Tour de France. He went on to achieve five second place finishes, along with a fourth place (2004) and a third place finish (2005). Critics consider Ullrich as one of the most talented riders of all time: he can combine great power with a soft, athletic style, with his time trials as perfect examples. Despite, or perhaps because of this talent, critics consider Ullrich to be "lazy" as he is notorious for becoming out of shape during the off season. Ullrich has won a gold and a silver medal in the Olympics 2000 in Sydney, as well as the 1999 Vuelta a España. Although not known as a one-day race specialist, he won the HEW Cyclassics in front of an adoring home crowd in Hamburg in 1997, and has made podium finishes in other editions of the HEW Cyclassics, and the hilly classic Classica San Sebastian. His victorious ride in the 1997 Tour de France led to a bicycle sports boom in Germany. Biography Early training Ullrich won his first bicycle race (at school) at the age of nine. He was educated in the sports training system of the German Democratic Republic, and attended the SC Dynamo sports school in Berlin in 1986. After the fall of the Berlin wall and the reunification of Germany, Ullrich and his trainer, Peter Sager, moved to Hamburg. In 1993, Ullrich surprisingly won the amateurs road world championship in Oslo. At the same time, Lance Armstrong won the professionals world championship. After this and other successes, Ullrich became a professional member of Team Telekom. From 1994 to 2005, he lived in Merdingen, Germany, with his long-term partner Gaby Weiss. The couple have a baby, Sarah, who lives with Gaby in Merdingen. Ullrich resides in Switzerland since they split up in 2005, allegedly due to Weiss’s reluctance to be in the limelight, which conflicted with Ullrich’s enjoyment of celebrity life. 1997 Tour de France In Ullrich’s first one and a half years as a professional, he was inconspicuous. At his first start at the 1996 Tour de France, he reached a sensational second place behind his Danish teammate, Bjarne Riis. He won the final individual time trial and secured himself his first Tour stage win. Ullrich with teammate Udo Bölts crossing the Vosges mountains during the 1997 Tour de France. Despite being a teammate of the previous year’s winner Bjarne Riis, Ullrich quickly became the favorite in the 1997 Tour de France. Riis was not strong enough to keep Ullrich down in the mountains or in the time-trials. After a dominant win in a mountain stage earning his first yellow jersey, the German press started following the Tour more closely. Despite Marco Pantani’s devastating attacks in the Alpe d’Huez and Morzine stages, Ullrich was able to limit his time losses. For performance and ability to keep his nerves, the French sports newspaper L’Équipe, considered him to be one of the top bicycle racers with the words Voilà le Patron ("Here is the boss"). Ullrich won another stage in the Tour and became the first German to be the overall winner. He also became the only person in Tour history to win a time trial with a three minute gap between him and the number two. At the age of 23, Ullrich was also one of the youngest winners ever. He was chosen "sports person of the year" in Germany in 1997. The eternal second Ullrich was the defending champion of the 1998 Tour de France. He again obtained the yellow jersey, but he had an off day day in the rainy mountains, where he lost too much time on the later champion and natural born climber Pantani. The Tour of 1998 was haunted by doping affairs, giving it the nickname "Tour de Dopage".The following year, he missed the 1999 Tour de France — which was won for the first time by American Lance Armstrong — due to a knee injury. However, he returned in time to win the 1999 Vuelta a España, defeating the Spanish favourite Abraham Olano of Team ONCE. He also became the world time trial champion, which made up for his somewhat lost season. The 2000 Tour de France saw former champions Ullrich and Marco Pantani and defending champion Armstrong line up against each other for the first time. However, Armstrong proved too strong to upstage, as he did again in the 2001 Tour de France despite Ullrich wearing the jersey of the German National Champion, and the fact that he arrived at the Tour obviously in form, finishing in fourth place just three seconds behind third place Armstrong in the opening prologue. His ride in the 2001 Tour was memorable for his crash during which Armstrong waited for him to return to his bike. In interviews, Ullrich cited his failures to defeat Armstrong despite his preparations as his reasons for falling into depression in the next year. Despite his failure to ascend the top of the podium in the Tour de France, Ullrich delivered an outstanding performance in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. After establishing a 3-man breakaway with Telekom teammates Andreas Klöden and Alexandre Vinokourov, Ullrich won the gold medal with Kloden and Vinokourov rounding out the all-Telekom podium. He established himself as a world-class time triallist by winning the Silver medal in the individual time-trial event, losing by a small margin to Viatcheslav Ekimov and beating rival Armstrong to third place. In May of 2002, Ullrich temporarily had his driver’s license revoked after a drunk driving incident. After a positive blood sample for amphetamine in June of 2002, Ullrich’s contract with Team Telekom was ended, and he was banned for 6 months. He explained that the positive result was from ingesting the recreational drug ecstasy, which had been cut with amphetamine. He had not been racing since January due to a recurring knee injury, and the German Cycling Federation’s disciplinary committee agreed that he was not attempting to use the drug for performance enhancement, so he was only given a minimum suspension. In January of 2003, Ullrich and his longtime advisor Rudy Pevenage joined the Team Coast outfit, but after severe financial problems, Coast pulled its sponsorship, and Team Bianchi was formed. He finally returned to racing in March of 2003, preparing for the Tour de France. The Tour de France of 2003 would become a memorable one. Nobody, including Ullrich himself, knew what to expect from him after such hectic years. For the first time in years he was not considered one of the top favorites; however, Armstrong still considered him very dangerous. In the first week, Ullrich got sick and almost retired from the race. In the Alps stages Ullrich lost one and a half minutes on Armstrong and his Tour seemed lost. In the 12th stage, Ullrich fought back hard in the time trial, as he became the only one to finish within an hour. Armstrong was overpowered and had trouble with the heat, and lost one and a half minutes to Ullrich. Ullrich now found himself within a minute of Armstrong in the classification. The next day, he closed the gap in the first mountain stage by another 19 seconds and the clash would become epic: Ullrich seemed stronger then ever as he was able to stay with Armstrong in the mountains. Two days later Ullrich was able to ride away from Armstrong on the Tourmalet, but he could not sustain his pace and Armstrong caught up. In the final climb of that stage Ullrich dictated the pace, and it seemed that Armstrong was not in the condition to attack. More than half way into the climb, Armstrong’s handlebar got caught in a spectator’s bag and he fell. Ullrich decided not to take advantage of the situation and waited. For some time, whether Jan Ullrich waited for Armstrong to remount was subject of intense debate, although Ullrich himself asserted that he did indeed wait and did not attack. In a recent interview Armstrong admitted that Ullrich did wait for him, and that Armstrong himself had been misled at the time by Tyler Hamilton’s gesture and assertion that Ullrich had not waited. According to Armstrong, his fall gave him such an adrenaline boost that he could attack. Ullrich lost 40 seconds in the final kilometers, but all was not over: the 2nd, and final, time trial would be decisive. In that time trial, Ullrich suffered a dramatic crash and saw a potential stage and tour victory disappear. In the general classification, Ullrich ended 2nd with a gap of just 61 seconds in one of the greatest Tours de France in history. Ullrich’s remarkable comeback was acknowledged by the Germans as they gave him the sportsman of the year award later that year. In terms of finishes, Jan Ullrich could be compared with Raymond Poulidor, who was called the "eternal second" (with the difference that Poulidor never won the Tour de France). Also like Poulidor, Ullrich has not donned the Maillot jaune since 1998. A better comparison would probably be to Joop Zoetemelk, who won the Tour once as well and finished in second place six times, only once more than Ullrich. For the 2004 season, Ullrich returned to Team Telekom (now named T-Mobile, after a popular division of Deutsch Telekom). Ullrich won the Tour de Suisse during his preparation for the Tour de France. In the 2004 Tour de France, he finished in fourth place, 8:50 behind Armstrong. It was Ullrich’s first finish lower than second. T-Mobile teammate Andreas Klöden finished second, and Ivan Basso third. Ullrich said that he had been infected by a cold from his newborn baby, and was not able to ride to his full capacity. Ullrich in Hanover. For 2005, Ullrich again captained the talented T-Mobile squad. As was his normal routine to prepare for the Tour de France, Ullrich maintained a low profile for much of the 2005 early season campaign, surfacing to test his preparedness in the 2005 Tour de Suisse, in which he finished third after Aitor González (Team Euskaltel) and Michael Rogers (Team Quick Step-Innergetic). Ullrich is constantly criticized, and sometimes parodied, for his weight, especially for large gains in the winter, but he maintains that he always races it off in time for the Tour. Compared to his perennial rival, Lance Armstrong, Ullrich has been said to have perhaps a more advantageous physiology that would prevail were it not for the near-maniacal training regimen of Armstrong, but this is debatable. Armstrong himself admitted that it is Ullrich whom he considers to be his most dangerous rival, going as far as admitting that he would examine photos of Ullrich in the early season races to see how his form was developing. The day before the 2005 Tour de France, during a training ride, Ullrich crashed. He was closely following his accompanying team car when it stopped unexpectedly. He was unable to stop and plowed into the back windshield, narrowly avoiding cutting a major artery by several millimetres. He was not wearing a helmet at the time. During the 2005 Tour de France, Ullrich was passed by Lance Armstrong in the first stage time trial after starting a minute before him, causing speculation that he was once more doomed to be beaten by the American. Ullrich fell again in the mountains, bruising his ribs. During several other pivotal moments in the Tour, he could not keep up with Armstrong or Ivan Basso. Ullrich began focusing on finishing ahead of the surprise star of the mountains, Michael Rasmussen, for a podium position in the general classification. At the individual time trials nearing the end of the 2005 Tour de France Ullrich had a stellar time trial, demolishing the competition, save Lance Armstrong who came through to set an even quicker time near the end of the stage. Rasmussen had a terrible time trial, which consisted of several crashes and around five bike changes, which ultimately gave Ullrich a podium place in the Tour de France. Post-Armstrong Lance Armstrong retired after the Tour de France in 2005, and Ullrich’s career is coming to its end as well. Jan has stated he will likely quit after 2007 season However, he seemed more motivated than ever to win at least one more Grand Tour (either the Tour,Giro or Vuelta ). Notorious for coming out of the winter with serious weight problems (see above) and in bad condition, he began his preparation for the 2006 season early, with his mentor Rudy Pevanage finally back in the T-mobile staff and watching his every move. Early reports indicated that Jan was indeed in much better shape than in previous years and would be ready for what could be his second victory in the Tour de France. Ullrich finished 115th in the Tour de Romandie on April 30. However, Jan injured his knee in the off season and this could have limited his performance in the 2006 Tour de France, had he participated (see below). In May, riding in the 2006 Giro d’Italia, not to win but to prepare himself for the Tour de France, Ullrich targeted the Stage 11 50km ITT, and won it by a decisive 28 seconds over Maglia Rosa Ivan Basso, who beat 3rd placed Marco Pinotti by another 33 seconds (which means Ullrich beat everyone except for Basso by over a minute). Only five riders were able to finish within two minutes of Ullrich’s time. Ullrich dropped out of the Giro during Stage 19, with back pain. Team Director Rudy Pevenage stated that the problem was not bad but merely as a precaution to avoid possible Tour de France problems. He won the Tour of Switzerland for a second time in preparation for the Tour de France, winning the final time trial in decisive and dramatic fashion jumping from third to first in the GC. Operación Puerto doping case In the weeks prior to the Tour de France 2006, Ullrich’s name was mentioned in a large Spanish doping scandal, nicknamed Operación Puerto doping case. Ullrich himself has always denied the rumors. However on Friday, 30 June 2006, one day before the start, he was suspended from participating in the Tour de France. Jan Ullrich’s biggest rival (according to many experts) Team CSC’s Ivan Basso, who finished 2nd in 2005, and several other riders were also excluded. The decision to exclude Ullrich could be based on several text messages from his mentor, Rudy Pevenage, with Doctor Fuentes. Ullrich himself stated that he has nothing to do with Fuentes and he will try to prove this. If found guilty by the UCI, Ullrich faces an almost certain career-ending suspension. As of 20 July 2006, Jan Ullrich has been fired from T-Mobile in relation to the aforementioned accusations. T-Mobile general manager Olaf Ludwig announced the news during the 18th stage of the Tour de France between Morzine and Macon, though the sacking had been made in writing on Thursday. The German rider published a statement on his website saying that his dismissal was ‘unacceptable.’"I am very disappointed that this decision was not communicated to me personally but that it was faxed to my lawyers," Ullrich added. "I find it shameful that, after so many years of good cooperation and after all I have done for the team, I am being treated as a fax number." There are rumours linking Ullrich with rivals Discovery Channel, team of retired Lance Armstrong. Discovery Channel opted for Levi Leipheimer, instead, as the future of Ullrich remains uncertain, as he also was excluded from the 2006 Vuelta. Ullrich is trying to defend his reputation in court,where he won a case against Dr. Werner Franke. Franke accused Ullrich of buying doping up to 35.000 Euros each year, after reviewing the files of the Puerto affaire. The court stated that Franke has to keep his comments out of the media as his statements lack solid grounds. Franke however also went to court against Ullrich, claiming that Ullrich lied while being under oath when asked if he had used doping. At this point, the Swiss cycling federation (Ullrich lives in Switzerland and rides with a Swiss license) are investigating all the documents and will come to a verdict soon. Meanwhile, the justice department raided his house for several hours, collecting DNA material. Ullrich was on a honeymoon during the event with his new wife Sara, and was so shocked with the news that he aborted it. Signature bike frame line In May 2006 Ullrich launched a signature bike frame line, the "Jan Ullrich Collection"[9], which he helped to develop. There are three models catering for all types of cyclist, from enthusiast to pro. They take their names after significant times in Jan’s career. The ‘Campione’, the ‘Olymp’ after his Gold and Silver Olympic medals, and finally, the ‘Grand Tour’ after his Tour de France victory in 1997. They range in price from 1395 to 2995 Euros and are available only as frames (not as complete bikes)

Jan Ullrich

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