Michael Rasmussen has extended his contract with Rabobank by an additional year, taking him up to the end of 2007, as he writes on his diary on www.feltet.dk/michaelrasmussen. "There is quite some sense in striking while the iron is hot," he wrote. "There was a strong mutual interest. My pay check is a bit larger and at the same time Rabobank is assured that I do not leave."
The Danish rider would have liked to extend the deal covering 2008 as well. "That was a bit of a dream scenario. I turn 32 before the start of the next Tour de France, and therefore it would have been rather unusual. It is one thing being 21 years when you sign a three year contract, doing it at 31 is something quite different."
Both parties also agreed that they wanted a continuation of Rasmussen's success in this year's Tour. That means the Dane will have no goals in the spring, but will focus on defending his polka dot mountains jersey in the Tour. "I have an opportunity to concentrate 100% on the Tour de France, and they expect nothing from me until then. That is of course an opportunity of which I will take advantage. It is the most important bike race of the year, and when you have the luxury to be able to focus 100% on it, you better take that opportunity."
However, there will be a slight change in his preparations comparing to this year. The Giro d'Italia will be replaced by Catalonia and Dauphiné Libéré. "It has something to do with the way the Giro is built up. Last year (this year) we started in the southern part of Italy, next year it all starts with a week in Belgium. That is not necessarily the coolest place to ride a bike in the beginning of May. That is one of the reasons. Another is the fact that Rabobank has a policy that you do not start a three week race if you do not know whether you will ride it all the way. That is fair enough to me. And therefore it will be Catalonia and Dauphiné Libéré instead."
Rasmussen has had some good results in those two races before: In 2003 he won the mountains jersey in Catalonia, and in 2004 he won a stage in the Dauphiné Libéré, but for 2006 his primary goal will be to get into shape for the Tour de France.
"It simply has to be a continual rising run of form heading towards the Tour de France, and then we will perhaps try to pick out a stage. But I will not go to Catalonia for a win, certainly not if it is going to cost one and a half month later. Of course you will have to ride relatively fast in Dauphiné Libéré, that goes for the other favourites too."
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