Rasmussen reveals new team plans, wants to be directeur sportif in 2016 Tour de France
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Thursday, December 09, 2010

Rasmussen reveals new team plans, wants to be directeur sportif in 2016 Tour de France

by Shane Stokes at 8:03 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Personal sponsor Christina Hembo buys Team Stenca M1

Michael RasmussenConceding that it is very unlikely that he will ride the Tour de France again, Danish rider Michael Rasmussen has set the target of being directeur sportif of the Christina Watches team in the 2016 edition of the race. In the meantime, he intends competing for several more seasons, leading the team in progressively bigger races.

Hembo, Rasmussen’s personal sponsor, has purchased the existing Team Stenca M1 squad, and appears to also have secured the backing of Designa Køkken. Eight riders have been signed thus far, with more to follow in time.

Things have come together very quickly “Bjarne Riis [ie racing for Saxo Bank SunGard] was Plan A,” Rasmussen told media at the press conference. “We had put all our eggs in one basket. So Christina Watches has been started from scratch over the last 14 days.”

A timeframe has been set out, with the team aiming to be one of the best Continental squads by 2012, racing as Pro Continental between 2013 and 2015, and then push for a ProTeam/ProTour licence by 2016. That would see it riding the Tour de France, although by that point Rasmussen would presumably have retired from competition. He’s 36, and would be into his 40s by then.

“Obviously I am well aware that in 2016 it’s probably not me who will be doing the Tour de France,” he conceded. “But I have a very clear goal of driving the car behind and helping along the way in the ambition of [the team] taking part in the Tour.”

Rasmussen has a mixed history with the race, winning the King of the Mountains jersey in 2005 and 2006, and leading the race heading towards the final days of the 2007 edition. He looked set to be the overall winner but was removed from the race by his then-Rabobank team, due to pressure arising from his giving inaccurate whereabouts information prior to the event.

This prevented authorities from being able to perform out of competition doping controls, and he subsequently was handed a two year ban. He returned to racing last season, but has been unable to gain a contract with a top-ranked team.

His situation contrasts with those of riders such as Alexandre Vinokourov and Ivan Basso, who were both suspended but have been able to return to competing in some of the biggest races in the sport. Both riders competed in this year’s Tour de France, with Vinokourov winning stage 13.

Hembo has long said that she wants to help Rasmussen get back on track, pointing out that he has served his suspension. That theme will be once attached to the team. “We are running under the slogan, “everybody deserves a second chance,” and you will see that in the signings when we make the team,” said Cristina Hembo’s husband Claus at the launch, according to SPN.dk. “Michael Rasmussen is the undisputed captain of the team.”

His statement suggests that other riders who have been banned could be signed up, although they will be aware that the team needs to avoid becoming another Rock Racing.

He said that there was a lot of interest in the project. “We received inquiries from five cycling teams that want us to buy them. And from numerous riders and sponsors, so we are really pleased.

Rasmussen has had a difficult time in recent years, but said that he couldn’t walk away. “I’m passionate about cycling and I want to do this for many years in the future,” he explained. “Right now I am thinking only that we need to get this team up and running and in top gear as quickly as possible.”

With a Continental licence, the team will be limited as to what races it can enter in 2011. It won’t be able to take part in the UCI World Tour events, which are made up of ProTour races and those on the History Calendar of the Grand Tour organisers. However other races are possible; for example, it is likely that the team will be pushing hard to ride the Tour of Denmark.

Hembo is a watch designer and today launched a Michael Rasmussen-branded range of wristwatches.

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