I don't often write about roadie stuff here on this site, but I just have to post upon the retirement of one of the greatest road cyclists of our generation; Jan Ullrich.
I wouldn't be what anyone would call a fan of Ullrich, but I certainly can respect his career and accomplishments. Anyone who has paid any attention at all will recognize the man as the perennial runner up to Lance Armstrong in the Tour. He came in second at the Tour five times, in fact, making him this generations closest thing to Raymond Poulidor, who seemed to always come in second, and never won a Tour de France.
Ullrich did win one Tour. 1997 was the year he came out from under the shadow of Bjarne Riis to claim the yellow tunic for the only time in his career. I think that this fact makes Ullrich an even more agonizing character than Poulidor from the standpoint of expectations. After that first Tour win, he was proclaimed as the next multiple Tour winner, but it was never to be. The Festina Affair and then a young Texan named Lance stole his place in history.
Jan never gave up though. Through every tough off season, every personal misstep, and through every agonizing experience of watching that American dance away from him on the steep slopes of the Alps and Pyrenees. Jan kept mashing that monster gear and kept showing that we should never give up. Keep pedaling. Keep pushing it harder.
And he did have success. The Olympics, and other pro level races were great triumphs for the German, but I think we will forever have those images from the Tour etched upon our memories instead. "The Look", the crash in the final wet time trial, getting passed in the opening time trial of Lance's last Tour, and the numerous grinds up the mountain passes where the gritty German left everything on the road.
We'll never get to see that again now, but I always enjoyed watching Jan Ullrich ride. Whatever he does in the future, I wish him well, and I hope he never gives up mashing that monster gear on some lonely road somewhere.
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