Ullrich ushers in a new era

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The Independent Online
The tour de France rookie Jan Ullrich had the best in the world tottering yesterday with his victory in a 63-kilometre time trial through the baking vineyards of the Gironde.

Already acknowledged as the Tour revelation, he boosted his newly won reputation by beating his team-mate and race leader Bjarne Riis by more than two minutes and averaging 50.4km an hour. It brought the 22-year- old German to within 1 minute and 41 seconds of the Dane's yellow jersey, and it also marked a new Tour era, with Ullrich beating Miguel Indurain, the master of racing against the clock, by 56 seconds.

Ullrich's team manager, Walter Godefroot, was already tipping his young charge to win the next Tour after his performance through the Pyrenees to climb to second overall. "He has all the talents, and now with the right preparation he can win it," Belgian Godefroot, an ex-Tour rider, said.

Indurain added his endorsement yesterday after Ullrich, the 1992 world amateur road race champion, had clocked 1 hour 15 minutes and 31 seconds.

"He is sure to win a Tour, perhaps several. He has been so impressive, especially as he has also been working to help Riis win the Tour," Indurain said, and added that he had yet to decide whether he would compete in the Atlanta Olympics.

Ullrich had a similar decision to make a month ago. He wanted to contest last year's Tour but Godefroot told him to wait. Then this year he had to make a hard choice - the Tour or the Olympic Games.

"There was only one decision. I badly wanted to race in the Tour," he said, and the prophecy that he would one day be a top rider has come true in the final week of the Tour.

When he was 13 he was enrolled in East Germany's School of Sport where young talents were nurtured.

For Riis, this stage should have been like pedalling through paradise. He has a cellar of 600 red wines at his Luxembourg home, and obviously looks forward to cracking open a bottle or two next week.

Towards the end of his ride yesterday, Riis was struggling, and he was often out of the saddle to force the pedals around as he rode through the cobbled streets of the medieval town of Saint Emilion. He finished fourth behind Indurain and Spain's other ace, Abraham Olano, safely assured of becoming the first Dane to win the Tour.

Britain's Chris Boardman set the pattern when he wiped Maurizio Fondriest from the head of the leaderboard with a performance three minutes faster than the Italian's. His 1 hour and 18 minutes was worth sixth place. But Boardman is content; he is 24 hours from his No 1 objective, completing the Tour in Paris.

After the high of 1994, when he made a yellow jersey debut, he was laid low with a broken wrist and ankle within the first few minutes of starting the 1995 Tour.

Having toiled for three weeks and 3,900 kilometres, he will finish creditably in Paris with 39th position. This is not the top 20 placing he wanted, but the experience alone far outweighs the 3,500 francs he will earn for his endeavours.

There were times when he must have felt like the men who hacked through solid rock 10 metres beneath Saint Emilion so that wine could be stored at a constant temperature of 10 degrees centigrade.

The Tour has been hard labour, but Boardman has shown that he is made of the right stuff.

Indurain's pain, page 23