Jan the cat falls on his feet

Banged around by a couple of crashes, Jan Ullrich has not shown as a real threat in this Tour de France - yet. Described by Lance Armstrong as the rider who motivates him to get up in the morning, Ullrich and his T-Mobile team spoke to the press on the Tour rest day about his injuries, his rivals and the coming mountain showdown on the road to Courchevel. Hedwig Kröner was there for Cyclingnews.

When T-Mobile hosted its pre-mountain Tour de France press conference this afternoon in Voreppe, just North of Lyon, the eagerly awaited Jan Ullrich appeared relaxed, but focused. Although the marks of his crash yesterday showed on his face (a bruise on his forehead, and another one just on the side of his right eye), Ullrich was in good spirits when the journalist's questions started, the first one obviously concerning his health. The team doctor Lothar Heinrich explained why he decided to take Ullrich to the hospital for some x-rays this morning.

"It has to be said that Jan's crash was bad yesterday," Heinrich said. "First, one couldn't see a lot of injuries, but once we removed his jersey the injuries were more serious than we expected. You can see the bruises on his head, and it's the same on his body, so we decided to got to a private clinic here in Grenoble this morning to see if he has any broken bones, especially ribs. But we could establish that there are no broken bones. What he does have are severe contusions to his ribs. This can be a handicap especially at maximal performance, when the breathing is very deep, and at night. Fortunately, Jan slept well last night and now, and we hope that his pain will be the least possible tomorrow. During training, he felt all right, and everything else we will see tomorrow."

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