While Jan Ullrich was racing in Germany and Switzerland over the weekend, some of his most-relied on lieutenants at the upcoming Tour de France begun the eight-day Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré in southern France on Sunday.
Said directeur-sportif Mario Kummer about the race: "The tour is very demanding - it even goes partly over Tour de France terrain. At the end, we will be able to tell where we are at," he said on t-mobile-team.com.
Team management's eyes will be most heavily focused on Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden and Oscar Sevilla, who, along with Ullrich, will form the backbone of their team in July. Added T-Mobile's Belgian directeur-sportif Frans van Looy: "[The] Dauphiné Libére is the ultimate acid test for both of them."
Kummer also believes their Spanish rider, Francisco Jose 'Paco' Lara, has a good chance of a high overall placing at the Dauphiné. "I hope he could save the form he had at the Tour of Catalonia. I think he might be able to pull something off," he said.
For neo-pro Bernard Kohl, the 23 year-old will be using the race as preparation for his home tour, the Tour of Austria, which starts two days after the Tour de France begins in Fromentine on July 2. "Racing side-by-side with Vino and Klöden against Lance Armstrong is a great challenge for me," said Kohl.
In yesterday's prologue, the team's best-placed riders were Lara and Vinokourov, both finishing 14 seconds behind the winning time of George Hincapie.