By Susan Westemeyer
Since July of 2006 the retirement of Jan Ullrich seemed very probable. The 1997 Tour de France Champion and 2000 Olympic gold medallist was caught up in the Operación Puerto investigation and could not find a way to clear his name or to receive a racing license to continue his profession. Yesterday, at press conference in Hamburg, Germany, he announced his retirement amongst gathered press and family members.
Comments were quick to come in regarding the man that many considered to be the king of the Tour de France. "I regret his decision very much. But I must say I had seen it coming," Rudy Pevenage, Ullrich's former mentor and director sportif, noted to flandersnews.be. "Jan had already taken this decision months ago, but only announced it only today.
"It's the witch hunt in the media that made him decide to quit. He also lacked the motivation to work very hard for his sport. I can understand that, as his name was being tarnished time and again. Other riders that were named [in Operación Puerto] are back on their bicycles now. Jan isn't. I think that speaks for itself."
"I had expected this decision," quipped Walter Godefroot, former Telekom team manager, to Sporza. "He could no longer motivate himself to return to his high level of riding. He could no longer bring those efforts. ... Hopefully he can find his way in normal life."
"He started when he was very young and was always confronted with a lot of pressure," said king of cycling Eddy Merckx. "This meant that he became mentally tired. He could have reached more [heights] during his career."
T-Mobile DS and former teammate Rolf Aldag commented to t-mobile-team.com that "Of course it's sad to see a cycling career with so many highs and lows end like this. But we wish Jan Ullrich everything good in the future."
German cycling federation president Rudolf Scharping had hard words for his countryman, noting how Ullrich missed chance to shed light on Operación Puerto. "Today Jan Ullrich didn't add anything to clear things up," he said to AP. "This is a finish to a career which everybody wished had ended better."
Finally, Wolfgang Strohband, Ullrich's manager, noted his desire for Ullrich to keep racing. "I would rather have seen him back on the back," he commented to dpa. "At the beginning I was against this decision, but I saw that there was no point in arguing."