TEAM TELEKOM (GER)
211. Ralf Grabsch (Ger)
212. Sergei Yakovlev (Kaz)
213. Torsten Hiekmann (Ger)
214. Jens Heppner (Ger)
215. Danilo Hondo (Ger)
216. Kai Hundertmarck (Ger)
217. Matthias Kessler (Ger)
218. Jan Schaffrath (Ger)
219. Stephan Schreck (Ger)
The sound of a Porsche reversing into (oh the irony!) a bike rack on May the first and Ullrich?s decision to withdraw from the Tour de France has sent the Telekom team into a free fall not thought possible at the start of the season. In January, when the Telekom director of sport Pevenage said "We want to be the number one of the world. We have our own standards and do not want to be judged against German teams such as Gerolsteiner or Coast," few doubted that once again the Telekom team would high in the rankings and main contenders for the major races.
However, things do not always go to plan, and although Telekom still are the number one team in Germany they have dropped to 8th place in the UCI rankings with 2059 points, while Coast, under the brilliant direction of Marcel Wust, have surged up the league and are now at an all time high in tenth position only 500 points away from their famous pink clad rivals.
The news of Ulllrich being charged with drunken driving has opened more than one can of worms. Training in the winter in South Africa? Stories now emerge of Jan and Mike Kluge, (the former cyclo cross champion, famous for his fast living) living a wild lifestyle with Kluge leaving messages around the house saying "enjoy your life Jan, the tour is a long way off!"
Of course had Ullrich been able to achieve success on his bike this would have been seen as just boyish fun, but in the present circumstances such tales have had stormy consequences for the now troubled team.
In a quite astonishing interview in todays Bild newspaper, Telekom manager Walter Godefroot stated:
"confidence between Jan Ullrich and me is broken. I do not want to know if what occurred the other night in Freiburg was an unlucky one off. I know only that that is not done; not only because of his image as a champion but also for that of the team which serves him so royally. It is especially the obvious lack of respect for his team members that hurts me"
Meanwhile the alter ego of Jan Ullrich, the hard working, ultra professional Erik Zabel, may no longer look on the teams lack of results with his usual gentle irony. Zabel, a model of hard work, dedication, and sheer love of the sport (Zabel rides a limited number of 6 day races during the winter, as the champions of old did, just to keep their hands warm: the races are limited by Telekom in Zabels contract). The Telekom team is not too happy and there are rumours of a divided camp. The smaller group support Zabel and Ullrich for now who holds the majority vote there are other complexities.
Riders like Wesemann, Klier and Hondo fall into no man's land. If they win or do well there is little publicity, but if the team looses they are to blame. The team suffered the indignity of having Divison 3 riders finish before it in the recent Rund um den Flughafen Köln-Bonn, a fact which seemed to far overshadow Erik Zabel's victory in the Rund um den Henninger Turm a few days earlier.
The German press are even beginning to question such fundamental matters as the youth team policy. The complaints are of a disorganised approach which has done no favours to other teams and has produced little results. Peter Becker, Jan Ullrich?s coach, has been in charge of the youth team. With the exception of Matthias Kessler and perhaps David Kopp, there has been little reward, critics say. They point to prospects such as Robert Förster, Christian Werner (Nürnberger), and Steffen Radochla (Festina, Coast), Sebastian Lang, Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) as the future of German racing.
So what of the hastily rearranged Telekom team? Guerini has been moved to the Peace race squad, presumably because he will be team leader in the Tour de France, and along with Hondo, a proven stage winner in this race they have arrived with one aim: stage wins. Hondo and company are quite capable of that, if the team spirit is there.
Daily Peloton "in the Pink rating" 6 out of 10.