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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 July, 2003, 18:06 GMT 19:06 UK
Ullrich upbeat in defeat
Runner-up Jan Ullrich congratulates winner Lance Armstrong during the final stage
Ullrich (left) said he did not expect to ride so well
Jan Ullrich was anything but downhearted after finishing second to Lance Armstrong in the 2003 Tour de France.

The German rider, who won the event in 1997, had a terrible time leading up to this year's race.

A knee injury, a doping ban and problems with his former team all combined to knock his career off course.

"After all that I've been through, to be in the Tour de France this year was a reward and, overall, I cannot be sad," said the 29-year-old.

"I challenged Lance Armstrong as I was only 15 seconds behind him after the Ax-3 Domaines stage but I'm a little surprised everything went so well.

To challenge Lance for overall victory was not in my plans
Jan Ullrich

"I only came to the Tour hoping to prepare for 2004."

After a knee injury flared up in May 2002, Ullrich was unable to ride for weeks.

When he returned to action, he tested positive for amphetamines at a training camp in Germany, later claiming he had taken Ecstasy at a party.

Things got worse for Ullrich when his then team, Telekom, stopped paying his salary.

He decided to quit and moved to Team Coast, but his hopes of returning to the Tour suffered another blow when they were unable to pay their riders' salaries.

Ullrich quickly assembled a makeshift team under the colours of cycling manufacturer Bianchi.

And all the hard work and effort was rewarded when he crossed the finishing line in Paris on Sunday in second spot.

"I came on the Tour to win a stage and prepare for next year, but to challenge Lance for overall victory was not in my plans," he said.

"Only a crash could have helped me beat Lance and I wouldn't have wanted it to happen."

Links to more Tour de France 2003 stories





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