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Kloeden says Ullrich is still his leader

7/19/2004

NIMES, France -- Former Tour de France
champion Jan Ullrich, his chances of winning this year's race
seriously harmed in the Pyrenees, is now giving carte blanche to
his compatriot and T-Mobile teammate Andreas Kloeden.

While Ullrich lies eighth overall, seven minutes off the
pace, Kloeden is fourth, only three minutes and 18 seconds
behind leader Thomas Voeckler.

For once, the German champion seems ready to overshadow
Ullrich, his long-time team leader and the Tour de France winner in
1997.

"For me, Kloedi has been a revelation in this Tour. I hope he
can maintain his current level all the way to Paris. He was
clearly the better man in the Pyrenees, so I've given him carte
blanche in the Alps," Ullrich said on his Web site.

"I certainly won't split hairs over who works for whom," he
added.

The five-time Tour runner-up was again expected to be Lance
Armstrong's main rival, but he never found the form to threaten
the five-time race winner.

The 29-year-old Kloeden, since winning Paris-Nice and Olympic bronze in 2000, has been hampered by injuries.

"It will only make sense to ask for Kloedi's help in the
Alps if it's to our mutual benefit. If I think he has the
stronger legs, then he not only should but must go for it
alone," Ullrich added.

But Kloeden, one of Ullrich's most loyal assistants, said he
still considered himself a teammate rather than a leader.

"I haven't written Jan off. The Tour is only over when we
reach Paris and we still have a hard week's racing ahead of us,"
he said.

"Jan can still make up time in the Alps and in the mountain
time trial (on Wednesday) in particular. I still think that he
can make the podium in Paris, but the exact step remains to be
seen," he said.

With a modesty that perhaps stopped him from enjoying a more
successful career, Kloeden played down his chances of a podium
place.

"I'm very happy with how the Tour has gone for me so far. I
will do all I can to stay with the leaders. A top-10 finish is
possible, but my first priority is still to ride for Jan. He is
still our captain," he said.