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Rasmussen living his polka-dot dream

Michael Rasmussen's stunning victory in the Tour de France's ninth stage following a 169km breakaway was impressive enough in itself, but even more so for the fact he only took up professional road racing three years ago. Rasmussen's relative lack of victories in the discipline is apparent - before Sunday's win he only had three wins to his name spread over his three years as a professional road rider. However, his decision to switch from mountain biking in 2001 was justified tenfold Sunday when he claimed the biggest prize a rider of his caliber could hope for. The

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By Agence France Presse

Rasmussen has dreamed of this day

Rasmussen has dreamed of this day

Photo: Graham Watson

Michael Rasmussen’s stunning victory in the Tour de France’s ninth stage following a 169km breakaway was impressive enough in itself, but even more so for the fact he only took up professional road racing three years ago.

Rasmussen’s relative lack of victories in the discipline is apparent – before Sunday’s win he only had three wins to his name spread over his three years as a professional road rider.

However, his decision to switch from mountain biking in 2001 was justified tenfold Sunday when he claimed the biggest prize a rider of his caliber could hope for.

The 31-year-old from Copenhagen said at the Dauphiné Libéré last year, where he won the sixth stage, that he had set his heart on winning a stage at the world’s biggest race, and pulling on the polka-dot jersey of best climber.

Having started Sunday with that jersey on his back, Rasmussen did everything in his power to defend it, attacking after just 4km of the 171km stage, which featured a total of 57 km of climbing.

To cap it all, his breakaway – during which he claimed all of the maximum points available on the stage (56) – ended with a well-deserved victory, which neither he nor his fans are likely to forget.

From now on, Rasmussen has only one goal – to finish the race on July 24 as the king of the mountains.

“I’ve been a professional cyclist for three years, and ever since then I’ve dreamed of winning a stage on the Tour, and to pull on the polka-dot jersey,” said Rasmussen.

He now leads Frenchman Christophe Moreau (Crédit Agricole) by 48 points, although the most points for the climbers’ main prize are available on the tough Cols in the Alps and Pyrenees.

When asked how he was able to ride over Sunday’s six climbs with relative ease, Rasmussen added: “I guess it’s something you’re born with. There are guys who are born sprinters and others who are born climbers. Some parameters you can’t change. I could spend from now until Christmas training for sprints and I’d never get any better at sprinting.

“It’s the only thing I’m good at – climbing mountains – I believe if you have a specialty you have to work at it and exploit it to the full.”

Having claimed his Rabobank team’s second stage in as many days – following Pieter Weening’s impressive win on Saturday – Rasmussen said he would have a chance to celebrate with a little glass of champagne.

“If it continues like this for the team, we will all end up as alcoholics by the end of the race,” he added.