Danish mountains specialist Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) says he is not quite ready to defend his 2005 mountains jersey in this year's Tour de France - but he will be by the time the race hits the mountains.
"I don't know if I am quite as sharp compared to last year, but hopefully I will be. We have to ride 1800 km before reaching the Pyrenees, and I feel quite sure, that I am where I have to be when we reach the Pyrenees," Rasmussen said in his diary at www.feltet.dk/michaelrasmussen/.
Rasmussen said his preparation has been going well. "I have spent three days in the Pyrenees, where I rode the two mountains stages, and it went well, I think. Actually, that is what I have been doing since Tour de Suisse. There hasn't been that many days to waste."
Rasmussen doesn't believe this year's race will really start until the mountains, and doesn't expect any gifts to be given before that. "Then it is just the best that wins, and I believe that I am good enough to do that. I think that I am capable of beating them all in a straight fight."
The mountains jersey is his target, and team-mate Denis Menchov is Rabobank's designated general classification contender. But Rasmussen is not ruling himself out of going for a high place on GC too.
"Obviously, it could make the race much more fun to be 10 minutes behind in the overall," he said. "But that is not a decision I will make prior to the race. That decision will be made after the first time trial. If it goes well, I might be our second card for the overall all of a sudden. There is no reason to throw away the overall classification intentionally."
Strategically, Rasmussen said he will have to look out for riders such as Danilo Di Luca. "I could always hope that the points of the first ten days will be spread out on 15 different riders," he said. "That would make the task a little more foreseeable. Yesterday I heard that Di Luca goes to the Tour to take the mountains jersey. He is a little faster than me in the sprints, and that means that he might be able to get quite a few points on the smaller climbs, and then it can be difficult to close a gab of 50 points. In that situation I will have to win on a climb like Alpe d'Huez,where the score is twice as high. So, the decision [to go for the mountains jersey will be] made during the race."