By Shane Stokes in London
Former world MTB champion Michael Rasmussen has been one of the big guns of the Tour de France for the past two years running. In 2005 he won the king of the mountains jersey, won the ninth stage to Mulhouse and finished seventh overall. Just under twelve months ago he once again landed the polka dot jersey, was first on stage 16 to La Toussuire and finished 18th in the general classification.
The sometimes-distant Danish rider was in good form on Thursday and said that he was looking forward to the race. "I am feeling pretty good. The sensations are the same as they were last year. I hope the results will be the same as well.
"Riding the Giro has been the main part of my preparation. I managed to finish it this year and I came out of it quite fresh - that is good for the morale." Indeed he was fourth on stage 19, his best result during the race, and this backs up his assertion that his form was improving during the three week Tour.
"As regards targets for this year's Tour, I will have to wait and see," he said. "I'm not going to give the classification away like I have done in the past. If everything is status quo when we get to the bottom of the Col de la Colombière [Stage 7], then it is time to make decisions.
"It will be the same scenario as in the past. Moreau has said he is going for the mountains jersey but he is also a favourite for the overall, the way he has been riding. Who knows? As I said, if everything is status quo there, we'll have to see who is the best. Even then, things can still change a lot in the Pyrenees."
Rasmussen didn't fare as well overall in the 2006 race as he did in 2005. He's nevertheless able to look back with satisfaction. "I can't really complain about last year," he says. "I went away from the race with the Queen stage and the polka dot jersey, and the team itself won four stages. If that could be repeated I'm sure we would sign up for that. As for this year's race, I like the course a lot better than last season. I think it is a good one from me."
Rabobank have quite a solid team, and he gave his estimation of how some of the riders will perform. "I don't know about Oscar [Freire], he is a very special person. I am sure he will take a stage or two. Thomas [Dekker] is doing his first Tour; he knows he is here to gain experience and to ride in the service of the team. Denis [Menchov] is obviously in good form after his performances in Catalunya and the Dauphiné. He is right where he should be, in terms of his condition. We will see how far he can take it."