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Jan Ullrich: The Best There Never Was

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From the outset Friebe makes clear he’s not out to condemn or to judge Ullrich, his search more for the truth and maybe even some reconciliation, to understand why in Germany today Ullrich is still viewed with some sympathy or else pity, or how so many promising things went so horribly wrong. August 29th 1993; and whilst I’m aware of and impressed by a young Lance stunning us all by winning the Elite Worlds on a horrible day in Oslo, the German guy who won the amateur race didn’t register with me. But by the ‘94 Worlds when said young German fellow took Worlds individual time trial bronze, behind ‘chronoman supreme,’ Chris Boardman I remember thinking; ‘Jan Ullrich, now there’s a name to watch.’

Jan Ullrich is doing well again, according to former sports Jan Ullrich is doing well again, according to former sports

Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live). That would be telling in other ways — Armstrong later drew out all the worse insecurities in Ullrich thanks to his seven successive Tour wins; Ullrich never won another Tour after 1997 but made the podium seven times too, finishing runner-up five times, third in 2005, and might have won his debut Tour in 1996 if he wasn’t riding for team leader Bjarne Riis. Definitive performanceUllrich had recovered from his addiction and was living with his new girlfriend on the Spanish island of Mallorca where he rode his longest rider since Milan-San Remo 1997 on October 24, 2021. Beautiful writing, well researched and brilliantly balanced. I think Daniel wrestled with this one, I'm glad he did. Perhaps Friebe’s greatest achievement is capturing the elusive cyclist, and explaining his mystery, without breaking it. Even though he discusses the less attractive details of Ullrich, you never lose a sense of connectedness with ‘Der Jan’. And perhaps that’s the core of this book. It is both a fine work of journalism, but also respectful.

Jan Ullrich: I was just like Marco Pantani… nearly dead Jan Ullrich: I was just like Marco Pantani… nearly dead

Now, Daniel Friebe – who has covered twenty-one editions of the Tour de France – has gone in search of the man who was said in 1997 would go on to dominate his sport for a generation, but never quite managed it. Tyler Hamilton’s drugs confession: the Fuentes passage has all the drama of the tell-all autobiographies, and familiar grappling with moral complexities. Ullrich first returned to the bike some time before at the training camp for millionaires organised by Lance Armstrong, along with George Hincapie and Johan Bruyneel on the same island of Mallorca. "I arrived in a situation like Pantani's, almost dead", he confessed to them. Since then, the German has lost weight and looks in great shape. "There was a time when I stopped cycling, but in the last few months I've started training again and it gives me a lot of energy. Sport is my drug and I love cycling," he says.MyHome.ie (Opens in new window) • Top 1000 • The Gloss (Opens in new window) • Recruit Ireland (Opens in new window) • Irish Times Training (Opens in new window) The long awaited biography of Jan Ullrich by the eloquent and knowledgeable Daniel Friebe does not disappoint. Friebe is one the presenters of the Cycling Podcast and has been working as a journalist in cycling for two decades. As a veteran reporter on the Tour caravan, a polyglot, and an avid speed golf player he turned out to be the best biographer we could have wished for. He moved to Germany, and properly learned German to write this book.

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