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Ullrich resigned to fall short to Armstrong again

7/18/2005

PAU, France -- Five-time Tour de France
runner-up Jan Ullrich is settling for another podium place after
again being overshadowed by Lance Armstrong.

"Now my goal is to make it on the podium," said the 1997
Tour champion, who is fourth overall, 5 minutes, 58
seconds behind the American six-time champion.

Ullrich has only missed out on a podium finish once in his
seven previous Tour participations. That was last year when he
finished fourth behind T-Mobile teammate Andreas Kloeden and
Italy's Ivan Basso.

This time, with Basso firmly installed in second place,
Danish climber Michael Rasmussen stands between Ullrich and a medal
position.

"I don't know whether it'll be possible to take back the two
minutes and 49 seconds from Rasmussen in the last time trial in
St Etienne," said Ullrich, a far better time-trial specialist on
paper than the Dane.

Even for the double time-trial world champion, 2:49 over
55.5 km is a fair amount of time to make up.

"The time trial could not be enough which means I will have
to attack beforehand to try and claim some time back," the
German added.

Ullrich worked harder than ever this year in the hope of
finally beating Armstrong, riding his final Tour, but serious
crashes before and during the race have scuppered his chances.

The 31-year-old crashed into his team director Mario
Kummer's car the day before the start and also fell in a descent
a week ago.

"It might sound surprising but I'm glad to be in fourth
place because with the crashes I could easily be 60th," Ullrich
said.

He had to ask his personal physiotherapist to join the Tour
crew to help his recovery but it made no difference even though
the German tried to attack both in the Alps and Pyrenees before
conceding defeat.

"I never felt as ready as I was this year. It's frustrating
to end on another failure," the T-Mobile leader said.

"I'll try again and a win in the Tour de France will mean a
lot, even without Armstrong," he insisted.

But the new generation is growing fast and with Basso,
Rasmussen and others, Ullrich might well discover next year that
he missed his chance.

T-Mobile, which will be managed by former Olympic road
champion Olaf Ludwig next season, has already secured the
signings of Kloeden and Oscar Sevilla, while recruiting
Australian Michael Rogers, and German hopeful Patrick Sinkewitz
to assist Ullrich in 2006.

Ludwig will hold discussion with Alexander Vinokourov after
the Tour to decide whether the Kazakh stays with the team.