Jan Ullrich has said that taking third place from Rabobank's Michael Rasmussen is now his goal in this Tour. The Dane is not about to hand over a podium slot, though, and will be looking extend his 2'49 lead in the next few days, if possible.
Even if he doesn't increase his buffer, Rasmussen is relatively confident that he can pull out a good ride. "I've never had the pressure on me for a time-trial, so I never pushed myself to ride well in them," he told Dutch TV. "Now it's different and I know I will be able to perform well on Saturday. Tomorrow, I worry about tomorrow and the day after about that day. I have almost three minutes to the fourth place; the course on Saturday suits me very well."
Rasmussen's team director Erik Breukink was quoted in an interview with De Telegraaf as saying, "The parcours of the time trial in St-Etienne is far from flat. On Saturday, Michael has nearly three minutes on Ullrich to play with. I don't know if it's enough, but I'm certainly convinced that he can do a very good time. There are still other chances."
Breukink also commented on Rasmussen's future in the team - whether he would become Rabobank's main GC rider ahead of Denis Menchov, who is having a poor Tour this year, and has been sick. "Menchov remains our most important classification rider," said Breukink. "I don't see Rasmussen becoming someone who can fight for yellow. This year, the parcours was in his favour. If there was, like normal, a long, flat, time trial before the mountains, he would have lost five or six minutes.
"I don't think that he can win back a lot of time, à la Ivan Basso, through training specifically for the time trial. Rasmussen should keep his focus on where he can shine: that is climbing. I compare him to Richard Virenque. The mountains classification is made for him and therefore he has to race aggressively. Virenque also won nearly every year and ended close enough to the top riders in the Tour. Believe me, Virenque worked on his time trialling for many years but couldn't make any progress."