By Andrew Hood
Michael Rasmussen hasn’t raced a mountain bike since the 2001 world championships, when he flatted 2km from what looked like an all-but-certain second world title.
Since switching to the road, the Dane has evolved into one of the most consistent climbers in the peloton, winning back-to-back best-climber’s jerseys and a stage each year at the 2005-06 Tours de France.
For 2008, Rasmussen will be taking another stab at the fat tires in a bid to earn a spot on the Danish Olympic team for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
“I just received my mountain bike from Colnago yesterday at my bike shop,” Rasmussen told VeloNews at the start of Tuesday’s stage. “It’s my last chance at the Olympics and I think it might be possible to try to win a medal.”
Rasmussen will try to win the Danish national mountain bike championship in August to secure a spot on the Olympic team. He’s already planning on racing the Olympic road race.
“If I win the national’s, they cannot ignore me then,” he said. “I can’t be racing a bunch of World Cups next year trying to qualify. I haven’t raced mountain bikes in a long time, but I’ve been riding a lot recently to regain the touch.”
Rasmussen won the 1999 world mountain bike title but switched to the road scene following his bitter ending at Vail. The latest foray won’t mark a full-time return to the dirt scene, however.
Rasmussen, who turns 33 on June 1, remains committed to the road, where he’s racing the Giro d’Italia for the third time of his career to regain his fitness ahead of the Tour de France.
“I will finish the Giro and I’d like to try win a stage in the final week,” he said. “The legs are feeling better, but today is too early for me. There are too many fresh legs in the bunch still.”
Rasmussen said he’s still feeling pain in his left hip from his crash last October in the Giro dell’Emilia when he broke his left femur.
He worried about suffering from osteonecrosis, the deterioration of the ball joint inside his hip caused by reduced blood flow to the area. Floyd Landis required hip-replacement surgery last fall.
“It definitely hurts sometimes and I could end up like Floyd and need a hip replacement,” Rasmussen said. “The doctors said the bone could still die but it will take a long time. Right now I can’t wait.”
A metal plate inserted into his hip will remain until the end of the 2007 racing season.
Concerning his contract situation, Rasmussen said on his personal webpage that he and Rabobank are discussing his future. But right now, the team is holding off on extending his contract.
“They are in their good right not to extend with me. At present it is their opportunity to make a good bargain, but if they wait too long, I might make it my good bargain. We are talking a substantial amount,” Rasmussen wrote.
“I would very much like to stay where I am. But it is no secret that I have to extend my contract this year, and basically that means that I am free at the moment. I have no approaches from other teams, as the large teams do not begin their recruiting until after the Giro d’Italia at the earliest.”