Michael Rasmussen: "I am a clean rider - I don't want to have any doubt about that"

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19.08.2007/Michael Rasmussen started at a criterium in Pijnacker (Netherlands) yesterday. The Danish rider started with a neutral yellow jersey and coloured the race with many attacks. Rasmussen also took time to speak with the media.

Picture gallery: Pijnacker Crit, Netherlands, August 18 (3 pages)

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Michael Rasmussen: "Its getting better every day" (picture: Cyclingheroes)

Race organizer Maarten Welling came under pressure for contracting Rasmussen for the race. Although Rasmussen is not suspended by the UCI, the Dutch cycling federation (KNWU) asked Welling not to let Rasmussen start. Welling decided to let Rasmussen start anyway. Welling said: "We see Rasmussen as a victim. He wasn't caught doping, he is not suspended so juridical there is no objection to give him a contract. He has already raced at a criterium in Denmark."

Welling concluded by saying: "Many people say that Rasmussen's honour should be restored. My motto is that you are innocent until the opposite is proven. Just as it is in nomal society."

Questioned about the call of the KNWU not to let him start Rasmussen said: "If they say it is bad for cycling that I am coming, I think they should ask the people who were standing on the road today. I only saw happy people out there and I don't think that this is bad for cycling."
Asked if he found KNWU's request strange, Rasmussen said: "I contacted the UCI more than 3 weeks ago and they said that there is no reason whatsoever why I can't race and as far as I know the Dutch federation is under the UCI. I think they should follow their mother organisation."

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Michael Rasmussen and Maarten Welling (picture Cyclingheroes)

Asked if he considers himself the winner of this years Tour de France, Rasmussen said: "No I do not consider myself the winner. But I consider myself good enough to be the winner." Asked if he has talked with his former Rabobank teammates in Pijnacker, Rasmussen said: "Yes I did. They asked me how I am feeling and how my wife is reacting. I told them Its getting better every day and days like today are certainly helping."

About the confusion as to who is actually running the sport at the moment Rasmussen said: "I think even the teams don't know. There are rules for now but who knows the rules will be the same next year."

To the question as to whether he will go to court to remove all the doubt his missed doping tests and to proof to the ASO [organizer of the Tour de France] that he is a clean rider, Rasmussen said: "I am a clean rider. I don't want to have any doubt about that. I don't have anything against ASO and I am talking with Rabobank to solve that." Rasmussen smiled as he added: "I don't have to go to court, I think that's only in your [the media] interest."

Rasmussen looked very relaxed and was enjoying the support of many of his fans. Asked if he was racing in Pijnacker for the money or if that was rather meant as some sort of statement, Rasmussen said: "Its important to race as much as I can at the moment. It's not like I have a whole lot of races on my cycling schedule right now. So I am very happy that people want to see me here." Rasmussen told that Pijnacker was only his second race after having been sent home from the Tour because "people were thinking that I was suspended."

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Rasmussen in yellow in Pijnacker (picture: Cyclingheroes)

In the first week after his withdrawal from the Tour by former directing manager Theo De Rooij of the Rabobank team, Rasmussen himself did not want to race: "Obviously I had no desire to go anywhere near to bike races. But like I said, things are changing now. Now I felt I was ready to do it and I saw the reaction in Denmark. I was a little bit nervous when I started there because I did not know what to expect but it was a big success for me personally and for the audience. I took a big risk, I did not know what the consequenses would be." The Danish spectators were very enthousiastic and cheered Rasmussen's name when he raced at a criterium two weeks ago. During the last days he was riding the Tour de France, spectators were booing at him. Rasmussen said: "Maybe its not the Danish but the French who are the problem."

The criterium in Pijnacker was sponsored by Rabobank. Asked if it isn't a bit weird to race with all the Rabobank banners along the course, Rasmussen said: "No not at all."

And what comes next, will there be any more races in the near future for the Tour de France's almost winner? Rasmussen: "Hopefully I can come back in time so I can do something really good at the Tour of Lombardy."

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