Bjarne Riis admits an interest in Michael Rasmussen
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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bjarne Riis admits an interest in Michael Rasmussen

by Jered Gruber at 1:48 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Rasmussen's chances looking up; Riis says he will "consider" the former Yellow Jersey

Michael Rasmussen's recent claims that he is near to an agreement with a ProTour team took a credible leap forward today, as Saxo Bank manager, Bjarne Riis, confirmed that Rasmussen is not without his chances to join his SaxoBank/Sungard team in 2011.

Speaking with Danish TV2, Riis said, "I've known of his interest of late. Michael deserves to come back. Whether it's with me or another team, I cannot say, but I will look at it and consider it."

While Riis announced a huge signing in Alberto Contador on Tuesday, he will still have to contend with what looks like a mass exodus of his 2010 squad to the new team forming in Luxembourg. Contador will certainly bring along a few trusted teammates with him from Astana, but if the expected riders depart Saxo Bank for Luxembourg, Saxo Bank could be without some top level mountain support for the three-time Tour de France champion.

Even in 2010 the team looked weak at times in the mountains. Only Chris Anker Sorensen and Jakob Fuglsang were able to stay with white jersey winner, Andy Schleck, in the high mountains, and even their accompaniment was sometimes not a guarantee.

The addition of a rider of Rasmussen's caliber, however tainted he may be, could be a critical cog in the machine that is surely being built at this moment with the intention of taking wins in all three Grand Tours - in one season. The almost dream-like proposition would require not only an out of this world Alberto Contador, but a team that could support him at the highest level in May, July, and September.

Rasmussen is, unsurprisingly, over the moon about the non-negative declarations of Riis on Danish TV concerning his chances. The Danish climber has been desperately searching for a way back to the top level of the sport ever since he was ignominiously dispatched from the Tour de France, while wearing yellow, in 2007.

"For me, it would be a dream scenario to race alongside Alberto Contador under the direction of Bjarne Riis. I do not think it's unrealistic, but it is clear that it is up to Bjarne to evaluate and decide."

The meeting of Rasmussen and Contador would certainly be an intriguing one. The last time the two had any real contact was in the 2007 Tour de France, and the young Contador spent the better part of three weeks chasing the skinny Dane up the great mountains of France.

Rasmussen, while advancing in years at 36, could be yet another in a long line of veterans that have gone to Riis's team to enjoy almost miraculous recoveries to careers that looked to be on the way out. Rasmussen would also have his Danish nationality as a bit of a plus going for him, considering that Riis's squad, while incredibly international, serves as a bastion for the best talent from Denmark. However, Rasmussen can unquestionably lay claim to a tainted past, which can be traced all the way back to unproven reports in 2002 with Riis's CSC team, and a departure from the Riis stable that was less than genial.

Riis also commented today that he feels like the sport is clean. "Doping was a part of cycling in the past, but I truly believe that though doping still occurs sporadically, the sport has become very clean." What would the addition of a rider like Rasmussen mean to this? Is Rasmussen a part of the old guard that will continue to try to follow the old ways, or has he evolved into a rider that understands the new, apparently cleaner, world of cycling. One can be certain that if the two go into negotiations, there will be talk about Rasmussen's current habits, and it will be up to Rasmussen to somehow prove that he's a rider that can be trusted.

The chorus of voices calling for a second chance for Rasmussen is slowly growing. Riis has said that he hasn't ruled out a partnership with the former mountains winner at the Tour de France and agrees that a second chance for the Chicken should be a reality - could this finally be his way back to the top of the sport?

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