Germany’s Jan Ullrich has claimed victory in this year’s Tour de Suisse cycling race after winning the final stage in Lugano.This content was published on June 20, 2004 - 18:53
Ullrich finished the nine-day tour just one second ahead of Switzerland’s Fabian Jeker.
The race started in canton Lucerne and ended 1,450 kilometres later in Lugano.
“I was hoping to win, but I didn’t really believe I could do it,” said the German, who was 41 seconds behind Jeker at the start of the day. “The summer has begun well for me.”
Ullrich said the Tour de Suisse victory was one of the high points of his career, but he also had words of comfort for Jeker.
“It must be very hard for him to lose by so little.”
The Swiss cyclist improved on his previous best performance in the Tour de Suisse.
In 1992, the 35-year-old finished third behind Giorgio Furlan and Gianni Bugno of Italy.
"I am a champion, I know how to lose," said Jeker after the race.
Leading the pack
Although Ullrich wore the yellow jersey for the first six days of this year’s tour, he only stamped his authority on the last day.
On Friday, Jeker outclassed the German during the steep 1,000-metre ascent to Malbun in Liechtenstein.
Jeker increased his slim lead by another nine seconds on Saturday during the stage that led the riders to Bellinzona in canton Ticino.
But he was unable to hold onto the lead in Sunday's final time trial in Lugano.
In a thrilling sprint finish, Ullrich reclaimed the top spot by racing home 42 seconds ahead of Jeker.
Ullrich was left to ride for most of the tour without T-Mobile teammate Alexandre Vinokourov, who ended up in hospital following a crash during the third stage.
Vinokourov, who was billed as one of the tour favourites, underwent shoulder surgery and will miss this year’s Tour de France.
Ullrich now goes into the world's most prestigious cycling event as the main challenger to his American rival, Lance Armstrong, who has won the Tour de France five times in a row.
“Everything is going according to plan,” said the German racer. “I will be heading into the Tour de France with plenty of confidence.”
Switzerland’s Phonak team enjoyed a mixed tour, winning the 185-kilometre stage from Frutigen in the Bernese Oberland to Linthal in canton Glarus.
The stage – which crossed two major passes – was dominated by the Bernese rider Niki Aebersold, who broke away from the peleton shortly after the start and held on to win by almost three minutes.
But Phonak’s hopes of winning the overall classification crumbled as the team's leader, Oskar Camenzind, failed to keep up with Ullrich’s pace in the Alps.
Aside from strong performances from Aebersold and Ullrich, riders from the southern hemisphere also made a name for themselves during this year’s tour.
Australian sprinter Robbie McEwen clinched the second and fourth stages, while South Africa's Robert Hunter emerged from relative obscurity to win two mountain stages.
1. Jan Ullrich, Germany, 31 minutes, 36 seconds
2. Laszlo Bodrogi, Hungary, 8 seconds behind
3. Fabian Cancellara, Switzerland, 10 seconds behind
6. Fabian Jeker, Switzerland, 42 seconds behind
1. Jan Ullrich, Germany
2. Fabian Jeker, Switzerland
3. Dario Cioni, Italy
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