While still lacking a bit of "va-va-voom" in the time trial as Jan Ullrich puts it, the T-Mobile captain and mentor Rudy Pevenage are more than satisfied with his pre-Tour de France build-up.
In fact, 'Der Kaiser' is so pleased with his preparation, he said on T-Mobile's website, www.t-mobileteam.com: "The progress of my training can't be compared with last year. I am feeling much better and am looking forward to this summer with confidence."
Having just completed the Vuelta a Aragon yesterday after a solid return to racing at the Circuit de la Sarthe, Ullrich placed 19th in the penultimate day's time trial, around two minutes off the pace, before finishing the race 18th behind overall winner Ruben Plaza (Comunidad Valenciana).
"We did a lot of quality work in Tuscany in February and March. Jan has got good base miles in his legs," stated Pevenage. "We will make another flying visit to Tuscany before going home [to Switzerland] to continue with the training program," he added.
Never one to hide his distaste for the cold, Ullrich clearly enjoyed the sunnier climes offered in northern Italy earlier in the year, and given the atypical snowfall in Switzerland only yesterday, he'll be eager to return sooner rather than later. "We had good weather in Tuscany in March. I even managed to get a bit of sun on my face and arms." he said. "But what's much more important is I am bang on schedule with my Tour preparations."
The 31 year-old plans to take a short break from racing until the next race pencilled in on his calendar, the Volta a Catalunya ProTour race, which runs from May 16-22. Ullrich also added that the fact that the 2005 Tour de France will visit his home country gives him a little extra motivation.
"I am delighted that the fans at home can experience the racing action first-hand this time round. In any case, I will be digging deep into my reserves to try and win my second Tour de France," he said.