By Hedwig Kröner in Gérardmer
Stage 8 was a good one for the German T-Mobile team. Starting in home country with millions of spectators in Karlsruhe and on the way to France, the German squad was forced on the defensive early on as Jens Voigt and George Hincapie escaped, but once they were back in the fold, the magenta team could wait patiently for the last Cat. 2 ascent some 30 kilometres from the finish in Gérardmer.
The race tactics had been made clear before the start: Attempt to attack on that final climb - and the day worked out fine for the T-Mobile trident, with Alexandre Vinokourov being the first to do just that. Vinokourov tried a few times, forcing Lance Armstrong to chase. Then, his teammate Andreas Klöden broke free four kilometres from the summit, and caught the race leader Pieter Weening at the top of the Col de la Schlucht. The two of them descended fast, and even though the peloton was moving up on them, they took a 27 second lead into the finish.
"Andreas' race was great today," said the T-Mobile captain Ullrich, who moved from 13th to 6th place on GC today. "We put our plan into practise perfectly. My task was to stay with Lance and watch him. Andreas tried and got away instantly; I'm happy for him. It's fun, 'cause we're finally in the mountains."
His directeur sportif, Mario Kummer, was equally satisfied with the accomplishment. "This gives us morale for the coming days," he said. Klöden, who wasn't sure about the stage win as he crossed the line almost in the same time as Rabobank's Weening, was exhausted but happy in the finish. "It was a good race," he said, after getting a well deserved drink from his soigneur.
"We had said that if we have good legs, we'd attack. And my legs were OK, so I did. Now, I'm finished," Klöden said between two sips. Vinokourov came in at this moment, and the two tapped each other's backs as true comrades, the Kazakh congratulating him. It was clear that Klöden was relieved to have been able to show his class again today after his form had been ordinary, to say the least, leading up to the Tour. "I hope that my problems are gone for good now and that I can be a good helper to my team in the mountains," he said.
Meanwhile, Ullrich has made another entry in his personal homepage, where he thanked his German fans for their support and great welcome of the Tour de France in Germany, and concluded, "Now, the Tour is really getting under way, and we are really determined to go for it!"