June 20, 2004
Ullrich shows TT strength, takes Tour de Suisse
Jan Ullrich came through with a tremendous show of force two weeks before the start of the 2004 Tour de France. Ullrich was sitting second going into the final day time trial, trailing Switzerland's own Fabian Jeker by 41 seconds, and starting just before Jeker, who could easily mark his pace.
The course was 25.6 kilometers, or about 15 miles, and it was no surprise that Ullrich won the day, ahead of Laszlo Bodrogi and Dario Cioni.
What was surprising was Jeker's time splits, as for much of the stage, he kept Ullrich at 10-15 seconds advantage, and keeping most of his lead in reserve.
Under the red-bannered, one-kilometre-to-go mark, Ullrich only increased his overdrive, thundering home in 31 min 36 sec to take the stage, eight seconds faster than Hungarian Laszlo Bodrogi (Quick Step).
With the clock ticking and all eyes searching the final straightaway, Jeker -- mouth gapping and legs stomping on his pedals -- came into view.
Across the line, the Swiss rider braked to an abrupt halt, his eyes seeking the race clock for confirmation of what he hoped was the overall win.
Seeing the verdict: One second the wrong way, Jeker (who finished sixth on the stage) doubled over his handlebars, overwrought with fatigue and deception.
The overall victory was Ullrich's first of the year, and bodes well for his Tour de France chances, especially given the lengthy time trial (60 km) on the next-to-last stage of this year's Tour. He took 27 seconds out of Jeker in the last 10 kms of the stage.
Eurosport will let you relive their blow-by-blow of the stage.
“I was hoping to win, but I didn’t really believe I could do it,” said the German, who was 41 seconds behind Jeker at the start of the day. “The summer has begun well for me.”
Ullrich said the Tour de Suisse victory was one of the high points of his career, but he also had words of comfort for Jeker.
“It must be very hard for him to lose by so little.”
They also note that Jeker was 3rd at the Tour de Suisse in 1992 (!!) behind Giorgio Furlan and Gianni Bugno (!).
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