It’s nice to be able to sit back and celebrate your birthday with family and friends - but Jan Ullrich had to be content with just the company of friends as he celebrated his 31st birthday on Thursday.

When Ulle put another year on the clock at midnight on Thursday, he was cruising at an altitude of 10 000 metres, somewhere between Germany and South Africa, probably over the Mediterranean.

The twelve hour flight from Frankfurt to Johannesburg and the two hour connecting flight to Cape town were all booked three weeks ago - to carry him to the planned warm weather training camp.

But on Monday Ullrich had a change of heart and decided to change his reservation at short notice. ’I thought that it would be nice to stay at home a day longer and celebrate my birthday with my family," he says. But there was also another reason why Ulle wanted to postpone his flight to sunnier southern climbs: "My partner Gaby had been sick the last three weeks. The doctor even feared that it was pneumonia. So Gaby and our little girl Sarah traveled up to her mother in Merdingen, to recuperate there - it would have been nice to celebrate with them."

But it didn’t all pan out as Ulle would have wished - all alternative flights to South Africa were booked out. So, on Wednesday at 10 PM, the T-Mobile captain had to take his seat on board the flight to South Africa, together with Eric Baumann, Matthias Kessler, Andreas Klöden, Olaf Pollack, André Korff and the Gerolsteiner sprinter Danilo Hondo.

"I have resolved to prepare intensively for next season. I need the foundation training and don’t want to put a foot wrong. The warm weather in South Africa is good for the long endurance rides, so I will just have to bite my lip and pass on the birthday party at home," he says.

’When this all leads to good season results, then I will know that I got it right."