Embattled professional cyclist Michael Rasmussen has released a statement announcing his participation in this weekend's Dutch Ronde van Pijnacker criterium, with the Danish rider determined to show he's still allowed to race and wants to return to the ProTour. Rasmussen was fired last month by ProTour team Rabobank while wearing cycling's most coveted jersey - the Tour de France's maillot jaune.
"I am way too proud to leave this way, and I still feel that I have much more to offer," Rasmussen declared on his website www.feltet.dk/michaelrasmussen/. "I might be in a position, in which it to a great extent is a matter of needing a favour from a friend - and luckily I have a few of them. Obviously, if you look at the name Michael Rasmussen at the time some will perhaps get cold feet.
"Therefore it is quite fine to show that you are not as bad as said in the papers," he added, before pointing out a local Rabobank co-sponsor's the race he'll contest this weekend. "I don't know right now, if I am allowed to ride in a ProTour team, and I am not sure if I am going to ride Tour de France again, but in my opinion you will still have to look at the foundation upon which [Rabobank] made their decision. It hasn't necessarily been their decision that was made in France."
The Dane was dropped by his squad during the Tour, and subsequently flown by private charter from France to his Italian residence, after former professional Davide Cassani alleged Rasmussen was in Italy at the time he claimed to be in Mexico; one of Rasmussen's reasons for not properly filing his documents to assist out-of-competition dope testers, which are central to the whole situation.
Rasmussen, who contested the Tour de Charlottenlund earlier this month, said this weekend's event is about getting back on the bike and showing the public that he is still allowed to race. "It is about getting back on the bike and to show the world that nothing is preventing me from racing," he said. "One of my big problems is that people might expect something else to be the reason for my redundancy than what has been told so far. That it in fact has happened on such a thin basis. I would like to dismiss all that and show that I can race. Nothing prevents it, and I know that for sure, because DCU has checked with UCI prior to my start in Charlottenlund."
While Rasmussen said he's been sad since last month's events, he dismissed claims he'd been seeing a psychologist. Instead, Rasmussen has drawn on the strength of his family and fan base during the hard times.
"Of course I have been very sad. That is natural," he stated. "25 years of hard labour was removed within a very short period of time on a very poor basis by a man with nerves worn thin and put under a lot of pressure, under a set of circumstances that are far from ideal for that kind of decisions."
"It's not like I have been seeing psychologist or so, but of course I have some good friends and family who have supported me tremendously. And that is nice," he continued. "Obviously, it helps knowing that 50,000 have made the effort [of visiting my] website and signing to support me. That tells me that there are quite a lot of people in the world who sympathize with me. It doesn't mean that you can't face a period of depression, but I don't think that I'm that type. Actually, I might be pretty unusual. The pressure that I was exposed to during the Tour would probably have forced most people to the wall earlier. If somebody should have broken down during that period, it should have been me."