By Andrew Hood
Last year, Rabobank’s Michael Rasmussen electrified the Tour de France with a big stage win and rode with the king of the mountains jersey into Paris. So far this year, the former world mountain bike champion has been quietly finding his way.
The skinny Dane worked for team captain Denis Menchov in the Pyrénées and has patiently been scooping up points for the polka-dot jersey. He promises to step back into the limelight in the Alps, but first come Menchov’s hopes in the GC.
VeloNews caught up with Rasmussen ahead of Monday’s rest day. Here are excerpts of the interview:
VeloNews.com: Rabobank looks strong against Phonak, what will be the team strategy in the Alps?
Michael Rasmussen: Now we are just thinking about the next couple of days, then we have to see. Like (Friday), if a big break goes, it could be interesting. We are in a position to put them under pressure. It’s not always to have a strong team if you don’t have a strong captain, but I think we do. Menchov looked very good.
VN: Do you think Menchov can win?
MR: We have to, at least we have to try. Coming into the last time trial, being a minute behind is not good enough if you want to win. There will be plenty of opportunities in the coming stages. It’s a very hard last week.
VN: You’re looking stronger, how do you feel coming into the final week?
MR: It’s going the right direction. I am getting stronger every day and I am probably consuming a little bit less energy than some of my opponents in the mountains. Relatively I am having it easier and it’s changed a bit (from) the first week when I was the suffering, now it’s coming back. With the heat I am feeling great. I like the heat. I feel very confident ahead of the Alps.
VN: You’re obviously still thinking about the best climber’s jersey, do you think you still want to win it?
MR: If I can pick up points along the road and without conflicting with the yellow jersey objective, then yes. The priority is the yellow jersey. If I can be there on the last mountain, I will get my points and eventually get into position even grab the (polka-dot) jersey.
VN: Are you willing to sacrifice you own chances for a stage win to help Menchov?
MR: Yes, if it means getting the yellow jersey onto the Champs Elysees, then yes. There’s no doubt about that. That would bring a lot of satisfaction. It would be a once in a lifetime chance for me and the team as well. There’s a lot at stake there now. Rabobank is evaluating if they want to extend the sponsorship, so I am sure a yellow jersey on the Champs Elysees could make that decision very easy.
VN – Both La Toussuire and Alpe d’Huez are classic climbs, you must be licking your lips about winning one of those?
MR: If I am there in the end, who says I cannot win, even though I have to be there for Menchov. Even the stage to Morzine is very hard. I think the Joux-Plaine is the hardest climb in this year’s Tour. There will be three big days and three chances for me to get points and also to win the stage.
VN: What happened at the Tour de Suisse that caused you to abandon?
MR: I was in the very long break and for some reason there was a very, very strict commissaire sitting in the car behind and I went at the bottom of the final climb, it’s a very long climb and it takes like one hour to get up there. I think it was Moos who was hanging there like at 40 seconds and I couldn’t get my car, so I had to make like an hour and a half of the race without water, so that’s pretty hard after 200km of racing. So I got to the finish, I was 55kg and dehydrated, I was pissed and disappointed, and I went home. I was not feeling very well after the stage. But I was in good shape, I had a lot of speed in my legs, I should have had that victory in the bag.