The winner of four Tour de France stages and former mountain bike world champion, Michael Rasmussen, can be counted among the legends in Danish cycling.
He also won the famous Polka Dots jersey – the Tour de France classification awarded to the rider who achieves the most points by reaching mountain peaks before anyone else – in 2005 and 2006.
He is still the only Dane who has ever achieved that feat and is one of only a handful of riders who have won it more than once.
Ve in 2007
He was also teasing close to winning the Tour de France directly in 2007, winning two stages and looking sure to become just the second Dane in history after Bjarne Riis to win the grueling race. Back home, a riveted Denmark watched from the edge of their seat.
But with only four stages left and with a leading 3-minute lead, his hopes were shattered after being suspended from the race for allegedly lying about his whereabouts earlier that summer.
To this day, Rasmussen disputes the suspension and claims that his Dutch team at the time, Rabobank, was aware of where he was.
Pedals to this day
These days, ‘Kyllingen fra Tølløse’, as he is affectionately known in Denmark, is still active in the cycling community and teaches mountain biking, sports communication and monitoring at Hald Ege Continuation School, a boarding school at Viborg dedicated to sports.
Next door, he covers the Tour de France for Ekstra Bladet this summer and brings his wealth of knowledge and experience to the newspaper’s readers.
CPH Post got into the matter and sat down for a chat with the cycling legend.
How important is it for Denmark to host the Tour de France?
Everyone probably has their own perspective and relationship to the Tour de France in one way or another. But for many, it will be an experience once in a lifetime to have the biggest annual sporting event past their house – or at least very close by. And it is certainly an experience that no one should miss.
Do you have any plans for the race?
I cover the entire Tour de France for Ekstra Bladet. So I work for 24 days in a row. As a journalist, these are definitely long days. Our day usually ends with us sitting on a restaurant on a good day at. 21.00. And on a bad day, we pass a drive-in McDonalds at 11:30 p.m. So in that sense, the days are very long, but nonetheless, if you are into cycling, this is the place to be. You want to join the Tour.
As a rider, this is also where you want to be. All teams line up with their best possible eight riders in the best possible shape, so this is really where you discover who the best cyclist in the world is.
Denmark seems to be full of talent at the moment. Is it a golden age for Danish cycling?
Yes, it’s a very unique situation, and it’s been like that for the last four or five seasons. It is definitely the best generation ever for Danish cycling. Not only in terms of results, but also in terms of the numbers. Never before has Denmark had so many riders at World Tour level, so they really have to do something right in the Danish cycling clubs to cultivate all this talent.
Jonas Vingegaard finished in second place last year. Do you expect him to go for first place this year?
No, that would be a very big task, even though he was the biggest challenger to Pogacar last year. But Pogacar has been driving this year, last year and the year before for that matter, so he will definitely be the man to fight, and it takes nothing less than a miracle for Vingegaard to win the Tour. As I see it, Pogacar is head and shoulders above all.
Are there other potential artists?
In terms of winning it all, Vingegaard is the only one to see, but apart from him, you have a handful of riders who could pull stage victories, and it is very likely that one of them will succeed. Magnus Cort won a stage last year and Søren Kragh Andersen won e.g. thaw. And you have other guys like Mads Pedersen who came close with a couple of second places. And Jakob Fuglsang was very close to winning a stage. There are several riders who can do it.
Which of the three stages in Denmark stands out the most for you?
Like most others, I look forward to the peloton crossing the Great Belt Bridge [Storebæltsbroen], which I think will be quite spectacular. Obviously we need help from the wind, but the TV pictures will be amazing no matter what. It is a rather demanding trip down the coast from Kalundborg to Korsør to get to the bridge, and if they see headwinds there, they get crosswinds when they cross the bridge. It will be a very demanding day for the field as the wind blows there 90 out of 100 days.
And then the time trial in Copenhagen will be a decisive factor for the result of the final Tour winner, because, as with any time trial, you can see quite significant time differences in just 13 km races.
How did you get into cycling in the first place?
I started as a road rider when I was eight years old and switched to mountain biking in my late teens. I was pretty good at it and held on for ten years before going back to the road to pursue my childhood dream of winning the Tour de France.
How has the sport changed since you were a rider?
Oh, it’s much more monitored now than it was then. Now it’s very data driven, just like Formula 1. When the British team Sky came into cycling, they started optimizing so many different parameters, and all followed suit, so I think the overall level of cycling is now very high. Everyone knows that you can not leave anything to chance. You need to turn all the stones to optimize what can be optimized. Now they have trainers who monitor heart rate, watts, sleep patterns and more, and they can actually predict how hard they can push each rider, how long and when to take them out of the fight to save them for later stages. It’s pretty cool, but it might also sometimes take the anarchy out of cycling, which is why it’s so wonderful that you have guys like Pogacar, Van der Poel, and Wout van Aert who sometimes do not care about tactics and just racing. . .
Has it made the sport more worth seeing?
There are definitely more than a handful of riders these days who perform at the highest level and who do not use the Sky tactics of monitoring everything up to the finish line. Riders who are not afraid to attack 50 km from the line, instead of sitting there and watching their power readers and waiting for the last 4-5 km. It makes it much more manageable.
Who were the characters on the Tour when you were running races? Did you have any idols when you were growing up?
I was so lucky to compete against Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich, and for me, the two guys are still some of the greatest characters in cycling. When I was growing up, I was very fond of Greg Lemond. He was definitely one of my favorites, and eventually he became my trainer when I was a mountain biker.
Source: The Nordic Page