Michael Rasmussen is racing his second Tour de France. The Rabobank rider ended up 14th overall last year, and showed very aggressive riding on several of the mountains stages, always hoping for a stage win, which never came. This year, he has put the whole of his season's preparation in the Tour, and sure wants to make amends.
"You have to have balls of stone to make into top 10 during the Tour de France, but in a way I think I have shown that it is possible, but still I haven’t won anything in that race," he wrote in his diary at www.feltet.dk/michaelrasmussen, at the same time declining speculations that he might want to go for the Polkadot jersey just like Richard Virenque and Laurent Jalabert before him. "A stage win is my priority. You can spend three weeks chasing a jersey and at the end you’ll perhaps end up second, and then it is not much more worth than toilet paper," he said. "Of course it would be huge, if you could get the mountains jersey, but a stage win gives you a quite different 'here and now' feeling. It is cash on delivery."
Rasmussen is therefore looking for a stage win, much more than for a good placing on GC, but one shouldn’t be surprised if he actually looses some time during the first mountain stages. "If I ride fast in the mountains I might end up in the top 15 after all. That is not something special but still an okay overall result," he thinks, contemplating the parcours of this year's Tour. " "Last year it was rather easy. There were perhaps three stages where I had a chance of winning, but this year the Tour is designed quite differently, so there are perhaps eight or nine stages where I have a chance of winning. Therefore, it is also difficult to point out a specific stage. If I shouldn’t succeed in the Pyrenees, I would also be satisfied with a stage win in the Massif Central," he said with a grin. "We face an 18 km-climb already on the stage to Gérardmer. Even though it is only at about four percent, I’m sure that it will straighten out the peloton. You don’t have to ride the Madeleine to get rid of the others."
The preparations have been perfect. Rasmussen weighs almost 1½ kilos les than last year, and he has done some altitude training in Mexico for three weeks after the Giro d'Italia. he also thinks that his Dutch teammates are stronger this year. "I am quite sure that Boogerd is in good shape and then we have the young ones like Posthuma and Weening, who both rode a strong Dauphiné," he asid. "And Dekker should be in good shape too, so I am quite sure that we are stronger in the mountains."