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  Friday, 27 July, 2001, 17:51 GMT 18:51 UK
'Nearly man' Ullrich stays upbeat
Jan Ullrich prepares for action on stage 18
Ullrich won the Tour in 1997

BBC Sport Online examines Jan Ullrich's state of mind after a fourth second-placed finish in five Tours.

Jan Ullrich is refusing to lose heart as he heads for another second-place finish in the Tour de France.

American Lance Armstrong is set to continue his stranglehold on the event by recording his third successive triumph.

But German Ullrich says he can be "satisfied" with efforts this time around and is not giving up hope of eventually repeating his 1997 victory.


It's a pity that I've had to come up against Lance when he's in the best form that I've ever seen him
Jan Ullrich

"When I come to the Tour it's to win," said Ullrich. "Of course you can't be happy with a second place, but when you've worked as hard as I have done this year, I can be satisfied.

"It's also a question of honour. I was forced to keep Lance on a tight rein as much as possible. But you have to learn to accept that there are better riders than you."

Ullrich is being tagged as the Tour's latest 'nearly man', inheriting the crown of Frenchman Raymond Poulidor and Holland's Joop Zoetemelk.

But the German has a long way to go to match either.

Poulidor never won the Tour, but finished second three times and third in a further five races.

Zoetemelk triumphed in 1980 but also finished as runner-up six times between 1970 and 1982.

Lance Armstrong
Armstrong is heading for his third straight win
"I'm really not too bothered about coming second behind Lance again," said Ullrich.

"On the five Tours I've taken part in, it would only be the second time he's beaten me.

"As long as I've got a good team behind me to help me win the Tour, I've always got to believe I can win it."

He added: "It's a pity that I've had to come up against Lance when he's in the best form that I've ever seen him.

"But I'm not the kind of guy who holds grudges or regrets. Lance is simply there, and I have to deal with it."

Age on side

The one way Ullrich might deal with it is by looking at his date of birth and that of a few other legends.

At 27, he is currently the same age as Miguel Indurain and Armstrong when they won the first of a series of Tours.

Back in 1997 Ullrich was touted as the new Indurain, a similar rider set to dominate for years to come.

Indurain once said that a cyclist cannot live "a monk's life" forever.

But if Ullrich can keep his motivation and morale high enough, then he surely can win another Tour before the age at which the Spanish legend retired - 32.

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