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Ullrich taking his time to get fit

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PARIS, France -- Jan Ullrich says his preparations for the Tour de France are on track despite his lackluster start to the season.

The German T-Mobile rider is considered to be a real threat to Lance Armstrong's bid for a record sixth title in the July race.

But his early season form has been poor in comparison with the American, who finished third at the Criterium International.

"One thing is for sure -- I know myself better than Lance knows me and the opposite is true as well," said Ullrich, who won the Tour in 1997 and has been a runner-up five times since.

"Why should we follow the same paths before the Tour? I want to take my time to make it back at my best level."

Ullrich, competing in the Circuit d la Sarthe this week, said he would face his first serious test of the season at next month's Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic.

"All my training is based on the Tour so that I can start it at my very best this time.

"I'm relieved that I had no health problems in the winter, except a sore throat. It is worth mentioning because it's unusual."

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