Jan Ullrich attended the 2017 Tour de France – but as a fan and not an official guest. Not invited to any festivities by the ASO, he watched the race go by in a small German town. This was his first time watching the race live as a fan and he said it was "absolutely fantastic, really exciting".
The ASO refused to invited the only German Tour winner to the Grand Depart in Düsseldorf, apparently because of his doping background. "I can live with that very well," he told Bild.de.
However, he also said that he had in fact been invited by someone he did not name, "but I had to decline because my daughter wanted me to celebrate her 14th birthday with her".
Ullrich was very happy to see the turn-out of German fans and the reception the Tour enjoyed in Germany. "I already knew beforehand that it would be great," he said. "Germans are great cycling fans, you could see that in Düsseldorf. It is great to see how the Tour is greeted in Germany. I have always said, bring the Tour to Germany, that will be a major boom."
He takes partial credit for it, too. "The enthusiasm here is great for me to see, because I at least partially set it off."
Ullrich sprang to fame with his second place in the 1996 Tour, then sealed his place in the history books by winning the race in 1997. He went on to claim numerous other wins in his career, including the world time trial title, an Olympic gold medal and the overall title in the Vuelta a Espana.
However, he came of age in an era of heavy doping, and paid the price for that. His first violation was a seemingly minor one, being banned six months in 2002 after a positive test for amphetamines in an out-of-competition test. But the biggest blow came when he was named as a client of Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes in 'Operacion Puerto'. He was pulled from the 2006 Tour de France the day before it started and never rode professionally again.
Since then he has rarely spoken over his experiences and offered only what many considered to be a partial apology and confession. Many German fans still love him, though.
"They still have the good memories, the past successes," said Ullrich. "They love cycling, and so do I."
"That is too bad, but he is only one of 200 pros in the peloton. There is always a black sheep, someone who doesn't understand. That happens in the best families."
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