276°
Posted 20 hours ago

Jan Ullrich: The Best There Never Was

£12.5£25.00Clearance
ZTS2023's avatar
Shared by
ZTS2023
Joined in 2023
82
63

About this deal

In 1997, Jan Ullrich announced himself to the world by obliterating his rivals in the first mountain stage of the Tour de France.

So awesome was his display that it sent shockwaves throughout the world of cycling and invited headlines such as L’Equipe’s ‘The New Giant’.Think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick here, but perhaps I should have explained things better, especially as doping is always a topic that provokes reactions. Well apparently Gabriele is very sensitive about East Germany… As Inrng often says, it gives more informations about you than about the subject when you react so strongly to what is at worst a slightly deflected review of a book you didn’t read.

Whether through early problems like weight gain or the deep personal problems of recent years, at times there’s a temptation as a reader to place Ullrich onto an imaginary psychologist’s couch and diagnose his issues through the pages, especially as the intensity of the book seems to grow with recent events where Ullrich goes from trying to win a bicycle race to coping with life.

Barely a mention about the role of “Western” universities, medical national institutions, Olympic committees etc. Although cases of doping on minors in the DDR were actually reported, the doping angle looks totally misplaced here, especially considering the Keulephant in the Room: Ullrich spent a couple of years in a KJS, at most three, as an early teenager, whereas pretty much his whole pro career happened at Telekom / T-Mobile over more than a decade. Of course, only Fuentes has been *proven*, but just as Friebe “explores” the DDR leit motiv, why don’t explore this also rather promising subject, given that Ullrich had quite much a stronger relation with the Telekom team than with the DDR, be it only due to mere chronology? Even when he didn’t win, there was always the seasonal targeting of the Tour with his preparation getting more intense the closer the race got.

He went on to become Germany’s first ever Tour winner, storming to victory in that edition by almost ten minutes, a result that was greeted as an era-defining changing of the guard. The point is that when doping is strongly related to some of the State’s power structures (as it was in the DDR, for sure… and pretty much everywhere else) it becomes harder to tackle for a series of reason. I think that if there’s a contrast in attitudes of sort to reflect about is how singling out DDR allows us to “forget” all the time what USADA was doing, or CONI and so on and on. You won’t look at a chocolate Toblerone bar again but after this anecdote Friebe is quick to add “there were elements of pantomime, like this, but also moments when the sport seemed not so much to have mislaid its moral compass as lost contact with Earth’s magnetic field”. Let’s leave the Keul and Southern (Federal) Germany universities surprise to the readers of the book, then.

This is an institutional level of financial and moral support that I’ve not seen in pro sports whether it’s cycling, tennis, athletics etc, but for many reasons this is not going to happen, because it’s not the state that’s perpetuating it, because some victims because wealthy through it and so on.

For many it was a vision of the future: if he could climb like this, win the time trials, and arrive in Paris with nine minutes on his next rival all at the age of 23 – precocious in those days – then the Tour seemed to belong to him. The good thing is that at least they apparently have recently started having an internal debate on the subject, although the bad thing is that it quickly escalated to a feud. The 1997 Tour win is symbolic for a country trying to reunite, easterners could see one of their own winning, westerners can celebrate their gain as the first – and only – German Tour winner, it was an act of unification itself. Amid all of this Ullrich’s career span took him from the state doping programmes of the DDR, the rise of EPO, the switch to blood bags, and the brief duopoly of Michele Ferrari and Eufemiano Fuentes. He’s one of several to talk about his time and there’s plenty from others like Rudy Pevenage, Jörg Jaksche or Rölf Aldag too but given the rivalry for years, featuring Armstrong makes sense.

On a much smaller level the Tour monopolises attention such that when a cycling biography comes out in June, along comes the race with all its distractions. In a podcast episode Friebe mentions that Lance Armstrong looms large in this book and and prior to reading this was a concern, especially if the publishers wanted him to be crowbarred into the story because of his celebrity. Doping is more of a background story, as you would expect from a cycling story from the 90s, it certainly isn’t the main issue covered in this book and it certainly doesn’t lay the blame at the feet of the DDR.

Asda Great Deal

Free UK shipping. 15 day free returns.
Community Updates
*So you can easily identify outgoing links on our site, we've marked them with an "*" symbol. Links on our site are monetised, but this never affects which deals get posted. Find more info in our FAQs and About Us page.
New Comment