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By Jason Sumner, VeloNews Associate Editor
The list of names leaving mountain biking behind to pursue road-racing glory has grown to four with the additions of Bas Van Dooren and Michael Rasmussen.
Rasmussen, the 1998 cross-country world champion who raced a limited road schedule last year, will be a full-time member of the CSC-Tiscali team in 2002.
“We might try to get him to ride for us at the world’s in Kaprun but right now he’s very committed to the road,” said Haro-Lee Dungarees team manager Mike King, Rasmussen’s boss in 2001. Rasmussen helped design the course that will be used for this year’s world championships in Austria.
Van Dooren, meanwhile, made the switch because of the uncertainty surrounding his 2001 team, Specialized. The once mighty squad lost its co-title sponsor last year when Subaru jumped over to Gary Fisher. Almost a year later a replacement has still not been found, leaving the future of the team in doubt.
“It’s enormously painful for me to do this, but this sport is dying,” Van Dooren said. “The future for pro (mountain bikers) is very unstable. As a recreational sport I see it getting bigger and bigger, but at this moment I have to look at it as a pro racer.”
What Van Dooren sees is a slowly sinking ship he wanted to get off. The Dutchman signed a one-year contract with the home-country, Division II Bankgiroloterij-Batavus squad in what he called a “perfect situation.”
“It’s easier to learn the ins and outs of the sport from Dutch teammates than from foreigners,” Van Dooren said. “I also know some of the riders and I think I can learn a lot from them.”
Already this year, top World Cup riders Miguel Martinez and Cadel Evans announced that they were leaving the sport to race full-time on the road. All told, three of the top 15 UCI ranked riders have now left mountain bike racing (Martinez, 3rd; Evans, 7th; Van Dooren, 15th). Rasmussen was ranked 28th.