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Tour Tech: Rasmussen’s Ride

It’s tough to tell what Rabobank’s Michael Rasmussen is better known for: His aptitude for winning the Tour’s climbing jersey or his phenomenal meltdown in the 2005 Tour’s final time-trial. [nid:39592]On Sunday’s stage 8, Rasmussen once again established the former, and placed doubts in everyone’s mind that anyone else will be able to take the Tour’s polka-dot jersey in the near future. He also established a solid foundation for his newly proclaimed aspirations to win the overall classification.

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By Matt Pacocha

Rasmussen’s ride

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It’s tough to tell what Rabobank’s Michael Rasmussen is better known for: His aptitude for winning the Tour’s climbing jersey or his phenomenal meltdown in the 2005 Tour’s final time-trial.

Another view, the team trains on 32-spoke alloy tubular wheels.

Another view, the team trains on 32-spoke alloy tubular wheels.

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On Sunday’s stage 8, Rasmussen once again established the former, and placed doubts in everyone’s mind that anyone else will be able to take the Tour’s polka-dot jersey in the near future. He also established a solid foundation for his newly proclaimed aspirations to win the overall classification.

The former mountain bike world champion is notorious for both his climbing ability and his obsession with the weight of his gear. There are stories from his former off-road racing days, where he would refuse to ride mountain bike hubs — they were too heavy — his mechanics would change the rear axle spacing of a Shimano Dura-Ace road hub and use a set to build a custom wheelset for the man known as “Chicken.”

There’s not even a place for a second waterbottle cage.

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It appears that not too much has changed since those days. Chicken’s Colnago Extreme-C frame forgoes paint; it weighs too much. The bike is equipped with a standard Shimano Dura-Ace group, but surprisingly with aluminum cranks. The team has access to Shimano’s new prototype cranks, but not in the 175mm size that its star climber prefers.

As was the case during his mountain bike days, his wheels are extra special. They are handbuilt by the team’s mechanics. They start with traditionally flanged 10-speed Dura-Ace hubs that have been equipped with loose ceramic balls. The mechanics say that the traditional flanges allow them to build a stiffer wheel. They are laced up with spokes, which are bladed and butted, to Shimano’s low-profile carbon rims. Rasmussen prefers the older style with internal nipples. Older Vittoria Pro-Team Corsa CX cotton-cased tires are mounted to the special hoops, rather than the current synthetic and cotton blend of the Corsa Evo CX that the rest of the team rides.

The majority of the team uses the new prototype carbon wheels from Shimano

The majority of the team uses the new prototype carbon wheels from Shimano

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The bike is finished with Rasmussen’s top goal in mind: To excel on long breakaways in the mountains. He rides a Selle San Marco Aspide saddle for weight savings and PRO’s one-piece Stealth Evo handlebar and stem combination for stiffness.

Rasmussen’s bike comes in at exactly the UCI’s minimum weight limit. Team mechanics say that the Dane won’t even throw a leg over the bike unless he has seen it post 6.8 kilos on a scale with his own eyes.

Notice also that his bike has only one water bottle cage. His seat tube isn’t even drilled for a second cage. Figuring if he’s in the peloton, then he has a domestique to make sure he’s hydrated, and if he’s attacking in the mountains — well then, he’ll have the team car with him. Just like the scenario that played out in the mountains from Le Grand Bornand to Tignes on Sunday.

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