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By VeloNews Interactive wire services , Copyright AFP2002
Germany’s 1997 Tour de France champion Jan Ullrich has left the Telekom team “by mutual consent” Wednesday, following a remarkably successful seven-year career with the squad.
The 28-year-old four-time Tour de France runner-up has had a miserable year – including two knee operations – which culminated in him being suspended for six months on July 23 after he tested positive for amphetamines.
Telekom had also frozen his wages since the ban had come into force although they had been making overtures to the Olympic road race champion about renewing his contract when the current one finished at the end of this year.
“Jan came to the conclusion that he wanted to make a fresh start,” said his manager Wolfgang Stroband.
“He wanted to rediscover his hunger in a new environment,” he added. Ullrich, one of the last products of the East German cycling school, said it had been a real wrench to leave the team where he had enjoyed so much success.
“This step was difficult because I owe Telekom a lot,” said the 1999 Vuelta a España champion.
“All my successes would not have been possible without their support and I would like to thank them for that. However, I want to look for a new challenge and a new beginning. I know that I have not used up all my talent.”
Ullrich, also the world time-trial champion, had indicated in late August he would like to stay with the team despite their taking a dim view of his admission he had taken recreational drugs in a nightclub because he was feeling depressed over his recurring knee trouble.
Two teams have been mentioned in connection with Ullrich, who won six stages in the Tour de France – German Coast team and the Danish CSC-Tiscali squad, whose manager Bjarne Riis owed much to his success in the 1996 Tour de France to Ullrich’s support. Ullrich finished that Tour in second place.