Ullrich aims for victory

Jan Ullrich will seek to salvage a frustrating season and equal a 76-year-old Olympic record by successfully defending his men’s road race title at the Athens Games today. The German, a towering figure in the sport for a decade, finished fourth in the Tour de France last month, failing to make the podium for the first time in seven years. He looked out of sorts in last weekend’s San Sebastian Classic in Spain, the last major race before the Olympics, and even his T-mobile team coach has questioned his commitment. But when Ullrich takes to the streets of Athens, in the shadow of the Acropolis, he will have a chance to turn his disappointment into gold. «The Olympics are something really special for me,» he said while training in Crete this week. «When I think back to the medal ceremonies in Sydney, with a billion or more people sitting in front of their televisions watching it, it sends shivers down my spine.» If Ullrich strikes gold, he will join Denmark’s Henry Hansen as the most successful man in Olympic road-racing history. Hansen won two gold medals at the 1928 Games in Amsterdam and a silver in Los Angeles four years later, while Ullrich has a gold and a silver to his name, both from Sydney. The Olympic road race is notorious as a free-for-all which throws up unexpected winners and, for that reason, there are at least a dozen riders with a good chance of dethroning Ullrich. They include his compatriot Andreas Kloeden, who surprised many by finishing second in the Tour, and Paolo Bettini, who should benefit from a strong Italian team. (Reuters)

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