T-Mobile's Jan Ullrich left the Giro two days before the finish, pulling the pin at the foot of the final climb in stage 19. Following his abandon, he gave a press conference at the team hotel to explain the reasons, as well as his name being linked with Dr Eufemiano Fuentes in the Spanish doping investigation, and his racing program prior to the Tour de France.
"I would have liked to ride it through to Milan," said Ullrich of the Giro. "However, Friday's stage was brutally tough. Rudy Pevenage and I agreed already a couple of days ago not to do the final two stages any more. So the plan was to abandon on Thursday. But after Thursday's shock, when my name was mentioned in the context of the anti-doping operation in Spain, it would have looked ill-timed. Besides, I felt quite good in the morning and decided to continue. But as the stage progressed, my back started to hurt. As a consequence, I called it quits – and now I'm glad I did."
Spanish radio station Cadena SER alleged that Ullrich had been in contact with Eufemiano Fuentes, who was arrested on Wednesday. Ullrich responded, "I've been working together with the Italian Luigi Cecchini for several years now. The names mentioned in the context of the anti-doping operation are not known to me. I learnt about the whole thing shortly before the stage finish on Thursday. Rudy Pevenage told me about it on the radio. Frankly speaking, I think it's a travesty to link my name with this thing. I never worked with Fuentes and I have nothing to blame myself for. It's a sad issue, which is not limited to cycling only. Supposedly, there are other sports involved, too."
Overall, Ullrich had a good feeling about the Giro: "It was a very good Giro for me. I won the time trial, which I never expected. And I didn't just roll along, but tried to get involved in the action. For example, on Thursday's stage 17 my plan was to be in a lead group. Unfortunately, I was reeled in each time. Most likely, because my name is Jan Ullrich. (laughs). Overall I was able to further build up my form. I'm very content with the result."
When asked where he could improve before the Tour, Ullrich replied, "My right leg is currently weaker than my left one. That's what causes the back pain. So I have to work on that. I'm starting to feel pretty comfortable in the mountains. I will continue to build up my form in the next weeks, by reconnoitring some tough Tour stages and doing the Vuelta Ciclista Asturias. I will sharpen my form for the Tour and hope I will put in a good performance in July."
Giro winner Ivan Basso will enter the Tour as the big favourite. "He makes a strong impression," commented Ullrich. "And his CSC team is well-balanced. Ivan is on top of his game. However, I don't think he will win the Tour. The competition is Italy is distinctively weaker than the one in France. And I want to have a say in it, too. (laughs)"
How do you assess your form compared to 2001, when you also rode the Giro? "This year things went better than in 2001. Back then I started out sick and struggled on the first stages. This year I won the time trial and was active. I felt very comfortable at the Giro."
Finally, Ullrich was asked to comment about the latest German talent Stefan Schumacher, who won two stages. "He showed a very strong performance here and won the stages deservedly and in style. He's a big talent. On Thursday he was lucky to get away on the descent. For Stefan this was a very successful Giro."'courtesy of team-t-mobile.com
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