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Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile)
By Shane Stokes One year ago Jan Ullrich sealed his overall victory in the Tour de Suisse with a win...
By Shane Stokes
One year ago Jan Ullrich sealed his overall victory in the Tour de Suisse with a win in the final time trial. At the time it was seen as a sign that he was approaching top form and would be a big challenger in the Tour de France, but in reality this Swiss Tour was the last success of his career. His implication in Operación Puerto ruled him out of the French race, and his career came to a definite end when he was linked through DNA testing to bags of blood seized in Eufemiano Fuentes' clinic in Madrid.
Ullrich continues to insist that he never doped, but this affair plus the statement by former T-Mobile soigneur Jeff d'Hont that the German star used EPO have put a serious question mark over his achievements.
Despite this, it looks like Ullrich's win in the Tour de Suisse seems likely to stand. Race directeur Armin Meier told Cyclingnews on Friday that no change is envisaged in the general classification for 2006.
"The winner is still Jan Ullrich because we didn't have any problems here," he said. "He did not test positive at this race. It is not our problem."
In addition to Ullrich's place at the top of the podium, three others from the top of the general classification were connected in some way to the Operación Puerto investigation. Koldo Gil, Jorg Jaksche and Angel Vicioso filled places second through to four. None of these are riding the 2007 edition, although Gil's name was on the provisional start list up until yesterday.
Unsurprisingly, Meier is hoping that this year's race will be scandal-free. "I hope everything runs smoothly. It is difficult to say [how it will be] because at the moment in cycling we have this situation, but I hope it is getting better."
Apart from the desire not to have such complications, he outlined what else he was wishing for. "I hope that we have nice weather, a big winner and some Swiss guys who will be successful during the race." He said that he expected the prologue time trial, the seventh stage to the summit finish of Grimselpass and the concluding time trial in Bern to be the key days.