Jan Ullrich

From Academic Kids

Jan Ullrich in the  uniform during the Prologue to the
Jan Ullrich in the T-Mobile Team uniform during the Prologue to the 2004 Tour de France

Jan Ullrich (born December 2, 1973 in Rostock, Germany) is a German professional road bicycle racer. He has finished second in the Tour de France five times and won the race in 1997. He was the first German to do so, which led to a bicycle sports boom in Germany. He also won a gold medal in the Olympics 2000 in Sydney and the Vuelta a Espaa as well.

He won his first bicycle race (at school) at the early age of nine. He was educated by 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 his trainer Peter Becker moved with Ullrich 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. He moved together with his girlfriend to Merdingen in the south of Germany.


Early professional years

In his first one and a half years as a professional he was inconspicuous. At his first start at the Tour de France in 1996 he reached a sensational second place behind his Danish team mate Bjarne Riis. He won the final individual time trial and secured himself his first Tour stage win.

Despite being a teammate to previous year's winner Bjarne Riis, he 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 stage in the Mountains and his first yellow jersey, the German press started to follow the tour more closely. Despite Marco Pantani's devastating attacks in the Alpe d'Huez and Morzine stages, Ullrich kept his cool and was able to limit his time losses. For performance and ability to keep his nerves the French sports newspaper L'quipe considered him as one of the top bikers with the words Voil le Patron ("Here is the boss"). Ullrich won another stage in the tour and became the first German to win the tour. He was 23 years at the time, one of the youngest winners ever. He was chosen "sports person of the year" in Germany in 1997.

Comeback from injury, and the Armstrong years

Despite starting as the popular defending champion, Ullrich was upstaged by the aggressive attacking style of Marco Pantani in the drug scandal-ridden 1998 Tour de France. The following year saw him miss 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 Espaa defeating the Spanish favorite Abraham Olano of Team ONCE.

The 2000 Tour de France saw former champions Ullrich and 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. His ride in the 2001 Tour was memorable for his crash during which Armstrong waited for him to return on his bike. In interviews Ullrich cited his failures to defeat Armstrong despite his preparations as his reasons for falling into despression in the next year.

After a positive blood sample for ecstasy, in 2002, Ullrich's contract with Team Telekom was ended, and he was banned for 6 months. Ullrich and his longtime advisor Rudy Pevenage then joined the Team Coast outfit, but after severe financial problems Coast pulled its sponsorship, and Team Bianchi was formed.

In the 2003 Tour de France, Ullrich once again finished second, behind Armstrong. It was the closest Ullrich had come to defeating Armstrong, during which Tour he defeated Armstrong in an individual time trial stage and put time into Armstrong the following day in a climbing stage. Armstrong managed to bluff his way and Ullrich did not put in an attack until the very last section of the stage, failing to capitalize on Armstrong's temporary weakness. In the end, Armstrong held on and won the Tour yet again. The 2003 edition was also memorable for Armstrong's crash due to his handlebar getting caught in a spectator's bag. Whether Jan Ullrich waited for Armstrong to remount is still subject of intense debate, although Ullrich himself asserted that he did indeed wait and didn't attack.

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), but a better candidate would probably be Joop Zoetemelk, who won the Tour one time as well and finished in second place six times, only one more than Ullrich. Also like Poulidor, Ullrich has not donned the Maillot jaune since 1998.

Recent years

For the 2004 season, Ullrich returned to Team Telekom, now racing under the name T-Mobile. Ullrich won the Tour de Suisse, a preparation for the Tour de France. Unable to match Armstrong's pace, he finished in fourth place, 8:50 behind Armstrong, in the 2004 Tour de France. It was Ullrich's first finish lower than second. T-Mobile teammate Andreas Klden finished second, Ivan Basso third. Ullrich explained that he had been infected by a cold from his newborn baby, and was not able to ride to his full capacity.

For 2005, Ullrich again captains the talented T-Mobile squad. As is his normal routine to prepare for Le Tour de France, Ullrich has maintained a low profile for much of the 2005 early season campaign, surfacing to test his preparedness in the 2005 Tour de Suisse.

Ullrich is constantly criticized and sometimes parodied for his weight, especially 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. 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 is developing.

Ullrich is one of the most popular sportspersons in Germany, and has appeared in many commercials.

External link

Members of T-Mobile Team
Mario Aerts | Rolf Aldag | Eric Baumann | Santiago Botero | Cadel Evans | Giuseppe Guerini | Torsten Hiekmann | Sergei Ivanov | Matthias Kessler | Andreas Klier | Andreas Klden | Tomas Konecny | Andr Korff | Daniele Nardello | Paolo Savoldelli | Jan Schaffrath | Bram Schmitz | Stephan Schreck | Tobias Steinhauser | Christian Werner | Steffen Wesemann | Jan Ullrich | Alexander Vinokourov | Sergej Yakovlev | Erik Zabel
Mario Kummer
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