It was no surprise that the 36 kilometre long time trial around Weinfelden was one of the stages Jan Ullrich (T-mobile) had in mind when he in pre-race interviews said that he intended to put himself to the test during Tour de Suisse. A fresh looking Jan Ullrich, riding his relatively new Giant TT machine, won the challenging time trial ahead of Francaise des Jeux's Bradley McGee and Quick.Step's Michael Rogers, thereby taking over the leader's jersey from Bernhard Eisel's shoulders. Yesterday's surprise winner Eisel finished 79th, 3'42 down on the winner.
"I was very motivated today and of course happy that I won," said a glowing Ullrich afterwards, who added that he wasn't nervous. "No, not really. It was just a question of finding and keeping a steady rhythm. You can't forget that my rivals have all come out of the Giro in good form."
Ullrich's aim for the Tour de Suisse is not to defend the jersey at all costs. "I want to test myself during the two mountain stages. But I don't want to put any pressure on myself or the team. The only thing that counts is what happens in a month in the Tour."
How it unfolded
159 riders presented themselves at the start of the second stage, and the first obstacle awaited them just around the corner from the start. The elevation of Weersvilen was 124 metres in 3.3 kilometres, and anyone eager to show high up in the results at the end had to make a courageous ride to the top.
Ukrainian Serguei Gonchar (Domina Vacanze), who started early in the field, set the first real fast time of the day, clocking 44'46 over the line, putting himself ahead of CSC duo Bobby Julich and Jens Voigt, who both had solid rides. Jan Ullrich started earlier in the day than he normally does, since the race was only one day old, and the time difference between most of the riders before the stage wasn't great.
Ullrich took off at a high speed, and powered up the early climb to set an outstanding intermediate time, well ahead of that of Gonchar. The fast ride over the first elevation might have been a long shot by Ullrich, but it seemed that the riders who followed and had Ullrich's time to ride on, overcooked themselves rather than benefiting from the fact that Ullrich was ahead on the road.
After negotiating the climb, Ullrich passed QuickStep's Patrik Sinkewitz, and got his countryman glued to his back wheel. Sinkewitz stayed on Ullrich's wheel for quite a while despite the protests from the commissaires, and this might have helped the young German to eventually finish tenth.
Meanwhile, last year's biggest hero and most unfortunate rider, Fabian Jeker (Saunier Duval), rode over the line with the decent time of 45'31, 45 seconds behind Gonchar. Bradley McGee, who saved the day for Eisel yesterday, rolled off the podium as one of the last riders, and certainly as the last contender for the stage win. McGee's countryman Michael Rogers was already out on the course, sporting his white world champion's skinsuit.
Ullrich's time at the finish was 44'06, a whole 40 seconds faster than the time of Gonchar, and it was now up to the other riders to see if Ullrich would go back to the hotel content or not. Fabian Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo) and Brad McGee were slower over the intermediate time check compared to Ullrich, but Michael Rogers was coming in towards the finish, looking like a threat to the German's lead. When the clock came up, it showed that Dodger was late as well, but only by 18 seconds.
Back out on the road, CSC's Russian rider Vladimir Gussev proved a surprise when he passed the intermediate time two seconds slower than Ullrich. Gussev, however, might have overdone it a little, and slowed to a respectable 6th place, 46 seconds behind Ullrich. But Ullrich couldn't be sure of his win before Cancellara and McGee were back in the nest. The Swiss powerhouse couldn't match the cruel pace set by Ullrich over the climb, and kept losing time over the finish, eventually finishing behind Rogers, 39 seconds down on Ullrich.
McGee, on the other hand, hadn't lost more time than he lost over that annoying climb, and if he could recover to repair that damage during the second half of the stage, he still had the chance to beat Ullrich. Coming into the final stretch, the clock was once again to Ullrich's advantage and a fit looking McGee had to see himself beaten by a mere 15 seconds.
The stage win earned Ullrich the leader's jersey, and he'll start tomorrow's stage to St.Anton with a 12 second advantage over McGee, and 18 seconds ahead of Michael Rogers. Gregory Rast (Phonak) remains the leader in the mountains classification, and Michael Albasini (Liquigas) kept his lead in the sprints classification during a stage where no sprints were contested. CSC with their solid performance took over the lead in the teams competition.
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