With six Tour de France riders in its line up for the Deutschland Tour (Tour of Germany), T-Mobile will be one of the top favourites for the nine-day stage race that starts next Monday, August 15 in Altenburg. Captain Jan Ullrich will spearhead the team, hoping to capitalise on his good form that saw him finish third in the Tour de France. "If I can keep my form of the previous weeks, I think I can mix it at the front and battle for victory," said Ullrich.
Apart from Ullrich, there will be Tour riders Alexandre Vinokourov, who won the 2001 Deutschland Tour, Italian climber Giuseppe Guerini, Matthias Kessler, Stephan Schreck and Tobias Steinhauser. The team will be rounded off by classics specialists Steffen Wesemann and Bram Schmitz. The tall Dutchman is back in training after his abandon in the Benelux Tour.
For the first time after its relaunch six years ago, the Deutschland Tour doesn't start at the end of May, but takes place three weeks after the Tour de France. Ullrich sees this as an advantage. "For me, it's no build-up race for the Tour any more. So instead of having to save my energy, I can give it my best shot," he said.
The tour is expected to be tougher than ever, and the fourth stage from Kufstein to Sölden is the first one in the history of the race to feature an 'Hors catégorie' climb. The finish on the Rettenbachferner (2,684 m) is the second highest summit on this year's ProTour calendar, after the Stelvio (2,758m) in the Giro d'Italia. "Of course, the ascent to the Rettenbachferner is the highlight of the tour," said team director Mario Kummer, while Jan Ullrich commented: "That's one hell of a stage. If you're not at the front there, forget about the podium."
Team manager Olaf Ludwig agreed with the prognostics: "The parcours is incredibly tough. The winner needs to be a good climber. In my opinion, the stage from Kufstein to Sölden is on par with the mountain stages of the Tour."
After the inclusion in the ProTour calendar the Deutschland Tour has been extended by two days and is now approximately 1,530 km long. Apart from the two tough mountain stages, the 30 km time trial at the penultimate stage is likely to shake the GC.
A total of 21 teams will be on the start line in Altenburg on Monday - the Pro Continental Team Wiesenhof received a wild card entry. Quick Step has named the 2004 Deutschland Tour champion (and future T-Mobile rider) Patrik Sinkewitz as well as HEW-Cyclassics winner Filippo Pozzato. The Dutch Rabobank team pins its hopes on Michael Rasmussen, winner of the Tour's mountain jersey, and Tour stage winner Pieter Weening. Gerolsteiner has selected Levi Leipheimer and Georg Totschnig.
Stage 1 - August 15: Altenburg - Plauen, 170 km
Stage 2 - August 16: Pegnitz - Bodenmais, 180 km
Stage 3 - August 17: Bodenmais - Kufstein, 232 km
Stage 4 - August 18: Kufstein - Sölden, 175 km
Stage 5 - August 19: Sölden - Friedrichshafen, 215 km
Stage 6 - August 20: Friedrichshafen - Singen (Hohentwiel), 175 km
Stage 7 - August 21: Singen (Hohentw.) - Feldberg (Schwarzwald), 173 km
Stage 8 - August 22: Ludwigshafen - Weinheim ITT, 30 km
Stage 9 - August 23: Bad Kreuznach - Bonn, 170 km