Rasmussen wants to return to Riis’ team, wishes ill on his detractors
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Monday, March 29, 2010

Rasmussen wants to return to Riis’ team, wishes ill on his detractors

by VeloNation Press at 9:02 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France, Doping
 

Former Tour de France King of the Mountains Michael Rasmussen has called on Saxo Bank team owner Bjarne Riis to take him back onto the team, saying that he can help the squad win the Tour de France.

“If Bjarne Riis said, ‘I want Michael Rasmussen in the Tour de France,’ I’d ride the race for the team,” he told Weekendavisen. “I think I might tip the balance. I believe that I could be the one who decides who should win the Tour de France this year. If I ride for CSC [sic, should be Saxo Bank], I believe that I can ensure that CSC [Saxo Bank] could win.”

Rasmussen had a lengthy ban following his expulsion from the 2007 Tour de France, which he looked almost certain to win. He had lied about his training whereabouts, and thus anti-doping authorities would not have been able to test him in the run-up to the race.

The Dane returned last autumn and has now signed a contract with the Miche-Silvercross team. However the squad is not on the UCI’s list of wildcard squads, which would require the riders to undergo regular out of competition testing. He is consequently unable to take part in any Grand Tours with the team this year.

Miche-Silvercross has previously stated that Rasmussen doesn’t have a get-out clause and thus must race with them for the whole 2010 season; despite that, however, he appears willing to jump ship if he gets a chance.

The climber has previously alleged that the UCI has put pressure on big teams not to sign him, something it denies. He said that he requires someone with courage to give him a chance.

“The only way I’m going to win out is to continue to move forward, and hopefully somewhere along the way I’ll meet a team manager who has enough balls to take me,” he said. “[Someone] who will say ‘enough is enough’. Then things will be right and I’ll do [big] races again,” he said.

Rasmussen previously competed with the CSC-Tiscali team, now called Saxo Bank, in 2002. He reportedly didn’t fit in, due in part to high demands by him of team workers including the mechanics. Rasmussen has a well-catalogued preoccupation with the weight of his bikes, for example only every carrying one bottle in order to save on grams. This requires team-mates to bring him additional bottles during races. His contract with CSC was not renewed and he moved to Rabobank, with whom he raced until his 2007 Tour problems.

The 35 year old stated that he had not yet spoke to Riis. However, given the latter’s difficulty in finding a replacement sponsor, it’s debatable whether he’d gamble on taking a rider who could earn him a lot of negative publicity due to his past.

Wishes ill on others:

According to the same newspaper, Rasmussen has said that he hopes that certain people involved in his problems suffered a terrible fate.

“It’s guaranteed that if some people died, I would live a happier life,” he said, in a bitter outburst. “If they suffered a lot and then died, even better. It may be a sick idea to have and perhaps even more sick to say out loud, but it is the truth. There are some people that if something really bad happened to them, I will immediately send a card, and my congratulations.”

“Personally, I think it is the biggest scandal in sports history. Across all sports.”

He didn’t name names in the interview, but UCI President Pat McQuaid was asked by Sporten.dk how he would respond. Given that McQuaid is head of the UCI and was one of Rasmussen’s most vocal detractors, it stands to reason that the Dane may have included him on his mental list.

“You can tell him that my health is excellent, and I do not intend to die,” said McQuaid.

Rasmussen described the day he was thrown out of the Tour to Weekendavisen, a day in which he almost certainly ensured his final victory by winning on the Col d’Aubisque.

“It was the most surreal experience I ever had,” he said, describing the day as both the happiest and most unfortunate of his life. “It was quite, quite awful. I’ve won, and when I finish the press conference and [doping] control, I am on my way by helicopter back to the hotel along with Menchov and Erik Dekker. My team manager Theo de Roiij rang a few times along the way, but we could not hear anything in the helicopter. He had been told that Jung [TV journalist Niels Christian Jung] had interviewed the Italian sports journalist (and former pro) Davide Cassani…and Cassani said that he had seen me in Italy.”

As this contradicted with Rasmussen’s insistence that he had been in Mexico prior to the Tour de France, it proved he was lying. The media was already closely scrutinising anti-doping issues following Floyd Landis’ positive the previous year, and so the pressure was immense.

“When we got back to the hotel, he [De Roiij] came to my room. He said that now we were ‘f**ed’. ‘Now you’ve ruined it for us all.’ Then he was in contact with the bank [Rabobank, the team sponsors] and then he says that the bank manager [ie the head of the sponsors] said, ‘we have to take you out of the race’. He had obviously been in contact with ASO. I answered him, ‘you are crazy.’

“De Roiij said in front of my team-mates that he preferred me out because I had lied to the team. So I asked, ‘what internal rules have I broken?’ He could not answer. I was told to pack my suitcase. All the journalists were on their way there. I was driven away in an unmarked Rabobank car and driven to a hotel 30 kilometres from there.”

Rasmussen said that if he had a rope that night, that things could all have ended. While he got over those suicidal feelings in time, he said that on many occasions he has been depressed about what happened that July.

His position is that he erred in lying about his whereabouts, he served a suspension and that he should be given a second chance. It remains to be seen if a manager like Riis would take a chance on the controversial rider and, equally importantly, if the powerbrokers in cycling would do likewise after his wishing of a painful death on unnamed detractors.

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