Sad, very sad

A couple of days ago Jan Ullrich announced his retirement from the sport of professional cycling. Instead of posting the news right away, I watched and waited for the reaction. I waited, and waited, and waited. I expected that the retirement of a star that has been such a presence on the professional cycling scene would cause some ripples through the blogsphere. The ripples were more from a pebble and the water returned to normal soon after.

That is sad. I remember the 1996 tour when Jan helped Bjarne Riis win his Tour de France and dethrone Miguel “Big Mig” Indurain. I remember thinking Jan was clearly stronger than his team leader and could have easily taken the yellow jersey off Riis. But he didn’t. His chance would clearly come.

Then in 1997, he grabbed the jersey with such force and authority that we all thought we were seeing the dawn of a new era. A new patron had arrived. So soon after the sun set on Indurain, it was rising on Ullrich.

Well, you know the story. Jan could never remove the words “could be” and “potential” from articles surrounding his name. The rising sun was actually coming from Texas, not Germany. Each year was the year but that year never came. His gold medal in the 2000 Olympics raised our hope only to be dashed again. In 2003 he had his best opportunity to silence the growing number of critics. He came close but could not close the door on a mortal-looking Armstrong.

After that, Jan began to assume the role of lovable loser. The Raymond Poulidor of our generation. Even though Jan pointed out that unlike “Pou Pou”, he had won. Unfortunately, no one listened.

Jan seemed destined to finish his career as Lance Armstrong’s Alydar. The second best rider of his generation. In fact, it began to seem that Jan was getting comfortable with being second. A sure sign that the shadow cast from Austin would always cover the German.

Finally, Operation Puerto put a mark on Jan’s record that would be worse than a rider with unfulfilled promise. And after Monday’s announcement, that seems to be the last line on the Jan Ullrich story. And it seems that as Jan Ullrich goes quietly into that good night, no one cares and that may biggest the biggest shame of it all.

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10 Responses to Sad, very sad

  1. Ed says:

    Obviously I’m a Lance fan, but my second fav was always Jan Ullrich. Lance’s dramatic mountain victories would not have been nearly as fun to watch without Jan to challenge him year in and year out. Remember “The Look”?

    He was always the faithful villian to Lance’s hero.

    The clash of these two titans on the mountains every year was the highlight of the Tour for me.

    His insistence on using that big climbing gear, rather than cave and copy Lance by using a spinning gear, was almost heroic in and of itself.

    I am seriously bummed at this news.

    Cycling needs larger-than-life personalities, and Jan Ullrich fit that bill.

  2. Like you, I was saddened – and surprised – that there wasn’t more buzz about this. I’m pretty strongly in favor of Floyd and can only imagine the outcry there’d be if this were him, and not Jan. We have to remember that Jan is to Germany what Lance was to the US. It’s a sad day for Germany and German cycling. It’s amazing in the midst of all this that Basso is back and looks like he’ll be ok. I’m just sorry Jan couldn’t do the same.

  3. Debby says:

    I haven’t been over there today, but yesterday on the blog First 100 miles, there were a number of cycling fans expressing the loss of Jan. It is indeed sad.

  4. Daniel M says:

    Jim,

    It was a sad day when Jan retired, and I distinctly got the feeling that he would have soldiered on but for the forces trying hard to run him out of cycling. They apparently succeeded, and our sport will be the poorer for it. Good post.

    – Rant

  5. […] Peloton Jim writes an excellent article about Ullrich’s retirement. It was a sad day to see such a great competitor retire. And as Peloton Jim points out, it’s even sadder that it has gone relatively unnoticed. A very sad end to a great career, but one that had the potential to be even greater. […]

  6. Paul P says:

    Jim:
    I, too, am saddened at the “retirement” of Ullrich, an awesome rider worthy of tremendous respect. In spite of favoring Lance, I always wanted to see Jan show his best performance. How many more top riders will become victims of WADA’s (et. al.) vendetta with cycling? Their stated goal is universally accepted; their sloppy & dishonest methods are not.

  7. Bart says:

    I am also sad. Just like Ed, my second favorite was ALWAYS Jan. I think he deserved FAR better than he got in the end. Maybe he can come to the US and work with one of our teams??? To use a new term, Jan got Nifonged by the press, cycling organizations and others merely trying to stay away from any taint of doping. Did he dope? I don’t know and he says no. Either way, 99% of people couldn’t stay on his wheel. I also think regardless of any truth in the accusations, this whole OP related spectacle has turned into a witch hunt that now makes zealots out of accusers. And no one likes zealots.

  8. Theresa says:

    There’s a great article on DP about Jan and his retirement.

    http://www.dailypeloton.com/displayarticle.asp?pk=10514

    Says it all…

  9. pelotonjim says:

    Thanks all. Theresa, thanks for the link to the DP article it is well worth the read. I can’t really fault Jan for not taking the defense road since it will deplete his finances at a time when he needs to think about living off them for the next 50 years.

  10. Stay awake until 3am to finish watch the 20 stages tour de france…Spaniard Alberto Contador, who successfully defended his 23-second lead over Australian Cadel Evans on the Tour’s final day.

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