April 12, 2004
Germany's long national nightmare is over
Finally, a first place finish for the German sprinter, six-time winner of the Tour de France green sprinter's jersey. So far this season, he had finished second in everything but American Idol.
At the same race, Zabel's teammate Jan Ullrich finished...well, hmmm, oh, there he comes....64th, 5:41 back of the leaders, at a race he won with a dramatic breakaway last year.
cyclingnews.com reports that Eddy Merckx commented on Ullrich:
"It seems that Jan has again not worked hard enough in his previous preparation and is still too much overweight. Sure, he has still over two months, but to beat Lance Armstrong in the Tour will be harder than 2003."
Ullrich, for his part, said he's where he needs to be in preparing for the Tour:
"In 2003 I was an outsider and I was only able to win because the others didn't recognise me in my Coast jersey. However, it's a long time to the Tour and I'm on the right track."
Ullrich has a number of big Euro races coming up, while Lance Armstrong will be contesting the Tour de Georgia, against a mostly American field, that's not likely to be as strong. On the other other hand, the Tour de Georgia is a stage race with a time trial and some climbs, so Armstrong will have a chance to see how he's recovering from hard days.