There are reports surfacing on the net of a bit of a scrap between Jan Ullrich and his T-Mobile team manager, Walter Godefroot.
Godefroot has questioned Ullrich’s committment following his fourth-place finish in the Tour this year, his first time outside the top three in years, and being outshone during the race by team mate Andreas Klöden.
“I’d be lying to you if I said I was happy with Jan’s performance on the Tour,” Godefroot told journalists. “He came into the race as Armstrong’s number one rival. We’ve failed, and we haven’t even won a stage.”
“You can make a good living as a professional cyclist, as Jan does. But you can also go out and do the job with a determination to be the best, with an almost undeniable need to perform,” Godefroot remarked. “That’s the main difference between Ullrich and Armstrong. Lance is a killer. It’s like he needs to feed on prey. And Jan is not like that. He’s just too nice, and too easily influenced.”
According to the Beeb, Godefroot went further, saying that Ullrich “cycled to live”, whereas Armstrong “lives for cycling”. Which didn’t go down too well with T-Mobile’s team leader.
“If he says it to my face then I will take the appropriate steps.” Ullrich reportedly snapped back.
Ullrich sets out his own view of what happened on the Tour in a brief interview on T-Mobile’s site. It’s not clear whether the questions Ullrich’s asked reflect his sponsor’s take on events: “The showdown between you and him never really happened. Were your preparations insufficient?” asks the interviewer.
Ullrich responds: “I would say that I prepared properly. I did everything that I could have. On the one hand I was in good enough form to win the Tour de Suisse, on the other hand I I didn’t control that race, as I hadn’t peaked too soon. For those reasons I am disappointed that I didn’t make the podium in Paris.”
“Does that mean that even a fully fit Jan Ullrich wouldn’t have beaten Armstrong this year?”
“In the Alps I felt much stronger than I had earlier in the Tour.” says Ullrich, “I went into the final time-trial fully fit, yet I still lost a minute to Lance – because, quite simply, Lance was the best rider in the Tour.”
Whether relations between Ullrich and the management are as fraught as reports would have us believe remains to be seen, but there’s clearly plenty of soul searching to be done as the pretenders to the throne are beaten with the same Tour tactics in yet another year.