'The Real Boss,' was the headline on L'Équipe's front page the next morning. 'King Ullrich,' said Le Parisien. La Gazzetta dello Sport suggested that the Italian rider, Francesco Casagrande, would be proud just to have got a good view of Ullrich's shuddering coup de grâce, that Casagrande had witnessed 'an era-defining changing of the guard'. And yet, Ullrich's reputation soon lay in tatters - exposed as a drugs cheat.
To be published on the tenth anniversary of his retirement, Jan Ullrich: The Best That Never Was will be an exploration of what went wrong. Not a sporting disaster story, for by any measure Ullrich would remain one of the pre-eminent riders of his époque and a German national treasure for almost a decade, but rather a textured account of how unbearable expectation, mental and physical fragilities, the legacies of a troubled childhood, a morally gangrened sport and one individual - Lance Armstrong - conspired to reroute his destiny as well as cycling's.
Contained within the Ullrich parable are lessons about how doping skewed the natural order and robbed even its abusers of their dignity, while in the short-term bringing them fame and fortune. But this is not, principally, a book about drugs or an exercise in shaming one of the key protagonists of what has been dubbed cycling's "EPO era". By producing monochrome, moralistic snapshots of the Ullrich and Armstrong generation, of who did and who didn't err, of good versus evil, books on that period have thus far neglected much of its colour and many of its human shades.