Tour Win Without Armstrong Would Be
Cheapened - Ullrich
By Eric Sabo
CALA D'OR, Spain (Reuters) - If six times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong decides not to ride this year's event, a victory in Paris on July 24 would be diminished his German rival Jan Ullrich said Tuesday.
Ullrich, the 1997 Tour winner who has finished behind Armstrong five times since, said he believed the American would line up on July 2 despite his decision not to commit to the race until April.
Armstrong is to focus on the European classics, races that Ullrich does not plan to compete in, before making a decision on the 2005 Tour in April.
"I believe he will be there," Ullrich said at his T-Mobile team's training base in Spain Tuesday. "(But) a victory without Lance would mean less."
Ullrich has previously had his commitment questioned by team manager Walter Godefroot after turning up for pre-season camps carrying excess weight though the German said his sole effort this year would be to get in shape for the gruelling three-week trek across France in July, whether Armstrong races or not.
"I ride for myself, not Lance," said Ullrich, who appears to be slimmer than usual for January.
"Last year was the worst of my career," added the 31-year-old, who finished the 2004 Tour fourth behind Armstrong, T-Mobile team mate Andreas Klöden and Italian Ivan Basso.
"I am highly motivated to have a great season."