Heppner Abandons Giro
After the glorious days in the pink leader's jersey, German hero Jens Heppner has put an end to his remarkable Giro campaign by retiring this morning. His bravery in yesterday’s stage at clinging to his leader's jersey until every last ounce of strength had been sapped by the cruel slopes of the Dolomites was made even more remarkable by the fact throughout the stage he was suffering from acute “knee complaints“ caused by a heavy fall on Wednesday’s stage.
“Jens had a fever this morning caused by the deep wounds he received on Wednesday. After consultation with the team physician we all agreed that it would serve no purpose to continue in the race.
Heppner had become the most succesful German ever to wear the pink jersey, holding onto it for a remarkable eleven days - before losing 36 minutes to yesterday's winner Pavel Tonkov on yesterday's stage, and dropping back to 34th place.
The man from Gera has had a remarkable career - winning his first two races way back in 1987: the Ronde van Hessen and the Ronde van Saksen. He joined the Panasonic team in 1991 and the year after signed with the Telekom team in 1992 - ironically enough at the start of this year's Giro he was without a contract for next season. Prior to this years remarkable performance in the Giro, Heppner, born on Christmas Eve 1964, had his best season in 1997 when he won stage 5 of the Dauphine Libere and followed this success with a stage victory in the Tour de France. The Telekom rider got into a nine man break with riders including George Hincapie, Bo Hamburger and Stuart O’Grady, and won stage 3 (Roscoff - Lorient) just ahead of Xavier Jan.
In what has been a truly remarkable Giro - Heppner has been a remarkable player!