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By Andrew Hood
Jan Ullrich says he believes Lance Armstrong can win another Tour de France, but it won’t be against him.
The 34-year-old German, who three times finished second to Armstrong, says the Texan is capable of scoring an eighth Tour title, but shot down rumors that he might be mounting his own comeback.
“I think he could win the Tour again. He has a great life and great women, but that is not his calling. He has that in his sport,” Ullrich told the German news service DPA. “If he manages the challenge mentally, his body will also be up to it.”
Ullrich was Armstrong’s top rival during the Texan’s seven-year Tour reign, finishing three times second to Armstrong and nearly beating him in 2003 in what was Ullrich’s best Tour during the Armstrong run.
Now residing in Switzerland, Ullrich said that Armstrong’s comeback, “is a good thing. Lance is drawing the world’s attention to cycling. Through him, the sporting aspect will become important again.”
Ullrich won the 1997 Tour but finished second five times, but never worse than fourth in eight Tour starts.
Ullrich has not raced since he was excluded ahead of the 2006 Tour for alleged links to Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, the ringleader of the blood doping ring at the center of the Operación Puerto doping scandal.
Ullrich denied doping, but his then T-Mobile team fired him after alleged text messages between training mentor Rudy Pevenage and Fuentes confirmed some sort of relationship.
As for his comeback, Ullrich said, “this option does not exist.”
“I stopped racing under different circumstances than Lance,” Ullrich said. “I suffered a lot of injustice and would only think about coming out of retirement if the same thing would not happen again. But at the moment, I cannot see that.”