book Review: Jan Ullrich was a ‘power plant’ of a horseman and many people predicted that he would win whatever came his way. When the great East German ran, everything was fine, but his private life was ‘not of an athlete’. Daniel Friebe wrote a ‘warts and such’ Biography; Jan Ullrich: The best thing that never wasEd Hood shares his thoughts with us.
August 29, 1993; and while I am aware and impressed by a young Lance who is surprising us all by winning the Elite Worlds on a terrible day in Oslo, the German who won the amateur race has not contacted me. But at the 1994 World Championships, when said young German won the bronze medal in the individual time trial of the World Championships. “Supreme Chronoman”, Chris Boardman I remember thinking; ‘Jan Ullrich, now there is a name to watch’.
World ’94 TT
In 1995 I suppose it never occurred to me that he beat the great specialist reporter Uwe Peschel as a neo-professional with Team Deutsche Telekom for the German time trial title, establishing himself between the two ‘Size.’ But I do remember ’96; He was the trusted partner of Big Bjarne Riis in the Tour de France, but they were in the final 63.5km time trial from Bordeaux to Saint-Emilion. ‘Right’ Time trial back then, added as Riis looked for war in his Pinarello finishing fourth and conceding 2:18 to his young teammate. Ullrich, who was on another level. He spent almost a minute ‘alien’ The tester Miguel Indurain, who would win the Olympic time trial that year, and more than two minutes away from the one who would win the silver in the Olympic time trial, Abraham Olano, the German who averaged more than 50 km/h. Ullrich finished second overall, best young rider and with his victory in the stage 20 time trial an impressive debut on the tour. The big debate in ’97 was whether Ullrich would be ‘Let go of the leash’ aspire to victory in the Tour or return to play the role of faithful assistant to Riis.
Ullrich liked his food.
Some of Ullrich’s German teammates had told him in 1996 that he was stronger than Riis and should go for the win. Jan spent his entire career on the German national team except in 2003 when he signed for Germany “big ideas but little money” Coast who was saved by Bianchi when the money ran out and he was in ‘light blue’ Colors that mounted the Tour de France. Bianchi was keen to continue with the company until 2004, with the understanding that Jan was part of the deal; but Telekom wanted him back and thought that the second win on the tour might be feasible after all. And the publicity it would generate would make Jan’s seven-figure salary seem like a drop in the bucket. The prologue of the 1997 Tour in Rouen gave Riis and everyone else who was stronger a lot of warning. Ullrich only conceded two seconds “super specialist” Chris Boardman finishes second in the prologue ahead of men with great time trial pedigrees like Toni Rominger and Alex Zulle; Riis finished in a prophetic 13th place.
Ullrich traded his ill-fitting German elite race for the Maillot Jaune, winning two stages, finishing second in the King of the Mountains, best young rider, and winning the overall by nine minutes over Richard Virenque. laugh? The Great Dane finished seventh overall, but he entertained us all when his mega-hump Pinarello took his anger and frustration and flung it onto the field during the stage 20 time trial. To be fair, when it became known this wasn’t his tour , the Dane devoted all his energies to supporting Ullrich. But to paraphrase the title of this Jack Nicholson movie, it was: “The best possible” for Ulrich. In 1998, the Rostocker succumbed to Pantani’s ambush in the rain at the Tour of Former East Germany and finished second. In 1999, Ullrich did not go on tour due to a knee injury he sustained due to the huge gears he pushed at low cadence. Until the year 2000 he was the “Spear Tour” and also in 2001 and 2003 – more second places. The 2003 loss was particularly painful as coming into the final stage 19 time trial there was no guarantee that Lance would earn the overall victory as Ullrich had found form on him and was 1:05 behind the Texan. But surprisingly, the German didn’t bother to watch the parcours time trial and paid the price as he slid on his butt down the rain-soaked track of a roundabout; One day I remember well, he was watching the race on television from a small bar in Brittany, delighted to see his compatriot David Millar have won the day with an astonishing average of 54.361km/h.
Armstrong and Ullrich Tour ’05
In 2004 Ulrich was fourth in the Tour and in 2005 third. Eight top-four finishes in the Tour de France in 10 years is an impressive achievement by any measure, but setting the bar so high in 1996 and 1997 was a disappointment. ‘Back in my day,’ Martin Williamson and I talked to a soigneur who had worked at Post and Telecom. He told us that preparation for Lance’s monastic tour, measuring every bite, began in November, while Jan was considering stepping back into the pastels in March. The result was that Lance entered the Tour skinny and mean, while Jan was barely getting into shape at the end of the race three weeks later. “pro proper life” after I got it in shape.
On yellow tour
In 1999, Ullrich missed the Tour, but was back on form at the end of the season, winning the Vuelta and the World Time Trial Championship. In 2000 the Olympic road race fell to him and in 2001 the time trial world championship was his again. Good shape; but too late in the year to win the race the German REALLY cares about on the road, the Tour. In 2006 everything looked like before ‘click’ He had gotten rid of the mega-macho gears, had increased his cadence, and the knee problems that had plagued the previous years were gone. It was going to be his last year and he wanted to reach the top with a ‘taking leave’ tour win. He rode the Giro to get fit, beating specialists Pinotti and Honchar to win a time trial stage. He won the Tour of Switzerland and proclaimed himself “Bomb Shape”.
And so. . . Operation Puerto arrived. The UCI may have buried its head in the sand when it comes to the EPA and ‘blood doping’ Threats, but not the Spanish police. Eufemiano Fuentes was the man they had been watching closely and had his phone tapped. As they attacked, their Byzantine network of code names, safe houses, and refrigerators full of blood bags soon fell apart. I was in the middle of the madness when the tour started in Strasbourg in 2006. I remember my boss Richard Pestes saying; “Ed, can you stop writing about drug scandals and start writing about bike racing?” To which I replied; “I’m not sure if there will be a race, boss!” Favorites Ivan Basso, Francisco Mancebo, Oscar Sevilla, Alexandre Vinokourov and Jan Ullrich were all out of the running. Jan Ullrich’s victory in the Tour de Suisse is his last victory and his last race.
Ullrich was waiting for Armstrong
That, in short, is the palmarès side of his career, which Friebe covers extensively in many interviews with his trainer Peter Becker and two of the men who tried to handle his brilliant but unpredictable load, Rudy Pevenage and Walter Godefroot, who no longer Christmas. trading cards, not to mention many of his Telekom teammates. And of course there is the other ‘Stuff’ – Ullrich’s addiction to alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, sex; and the most detrimental thing for a man whose job is to ride a bike in the mountains: food. His weight struggles have been a problem throughout his career.
Jan and Rudy Pevenage
Friebe documents it all, Ullrich’s terrifying retirement press conference, failed relationships, car accidents, rehab, associations with dubious figures. It’s all there, and it’s painful to read if, like me, you’ve admired the man. One man who has been trying very hard lately to get Ullrich back on track is Lance. Iban Mayo, for example, was not known for praising his rivals. ‘Punk,’ the Texan has great admiration and respect for Ullrich. the great ulric ‘What would happen if?’ is the effect that stronger management would have had on his career rather than naming him ‘guard dog’ watching what he ate and did and walking around him on eggshells; some Lefevere or Van Der Schueren had grabbed his ear and said; “So be it, boy!” And with that colossal engine of his, it’s a shame we never saw a fit Jan at Paris-Roubaix.
Jan Ullrich and Olaf Ludwig at the 2016 Amstel course
A thorough and impeccably researched work by Daniel Friebe, but perhaps as an appendix to the next issue of Jans Palmarès?
“Jan Ullrich: the best thing that never was” by Daniel Freibe
Publisher: Pan Macmillan; Main Market Issue (September 9, 2022)
Dimensions: 9.25 x 1.6 x 6 inches
Price: $39.95, €28.66, £25.00 (Hardcover) Y €20.42, £10.99 (paperback)
The photos in the review are not from the book for copyright reasons.
*** “Jan Ullrich: the best thing that never was” is available HERE on AMAZON.COM. ***
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