By Susan Westemeyer
"Ullrich Threatened with Further Setback", "A Good Time to Panic", "Captain Ullrich Must Prove Himself", "Has Ullrich Already Lost the Tour?" - These headlings reflect the German media's opinion on T-Mobile's and Jan Ullrich's chances in the Tour de France this year. "He came to the Tour de France as the captain and now stands there as the loser," says Weekly Der Spiegel, citing the "disaster in the time trial" on Saturday.
Ullrich had hoped to go in to the mountains ahead of Armstrong in the standings this year, but this "wishful thinking" was destroyd by his "debacle" in the time trial, according to the Frankfurter Neue Press Online. Only the new time restrictions will prevent TMO's "time loss along the Loire from sinking like a stone," it cheerily predicts.
Germany's number one tabloid Bild lives up to its reptutation by asking if Ullrich "has already lost the Tour on its first day?" It provides grisly details of his "horror crash", which was responsible for his "merciless false start" and wonders, "How shold Ullrich overcome this shock?" Of course the paper already has a possible answer: girlfriend Sara will try to take some time off work and visit him at the Tour, "so that ULlrich doesn't remain completely unkissed."
the more serious Die Welt notes that the team's mood was dramatically low after Saturday's time trial, with with Ullrich's "unexpected breakdown." Vinokourov rode well, but "even acknowledged specialists like Andreas Klöden [...] disappointed as 51st, the rest of the team from Bonn was even worse."
Der Spiegel says that the time has already come "to discuss whether Ullrich will actually ride the entire Tour de France as captain of the T-Mobile team." It predicts that the squad is already leaning toward Vinokourov. "Team director Godefroot denies that the team is waiting to see how Ullrich does in the 8th stage (July 9) which goes into the Alps, to see if it will have to chance the team's hierarchy. However, that this stage could be the end of Ullrich's captaincy and the beginning of Vinokourov's captaincy, can be easily read into Godefroot's message: 'We must first wait until the mountains,' he said."
The Berliner Zeitung believes the time has already come. "And now he has already lost his status as No. 1 on the team. To Alexander Vinokourov!" The team may deny it, but the paper notes that yesterday Vinokourov "was protected by Guerini, Nardello and Kessler. They were planned as Jan's most important helpers," while "Ullrich himself chatted way back in the field with buddy Steinhauser. Is this the end of a great era?"
Oh, yes, and the Frankfurter Neue Press Online mentions that "the second German team" is also in France, and even notes that Gerolsteiner team director Hans-Michael Holczer "would like to see his men in cyan-blue finish ahead of those in magenta-pink today."