We had an SMS from Alex tonight to let us know that he will indeed be with Garmin for 2013!
Following is the interview we were about to publish prior to his good news…
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Today was ‘D Day’ for Alex Rasmussen, will JV let him put pen to paper and welcome him back to the Garmin fold? Or will the man from Odense and his manager have to go back to the drawing board to get the talented Dane back in the peloton?
Whilst Leipheimer, Danielson, Zabriskie and Vande Velde will soon be back on the scene having served six months off season suspensions for being involved in the Armstrong blood doping, EPO and testosterone scandal, Rasmussen continues to suffer into his third interrupted season after his well-documented ‘whereabouts’ indiscretions.
The way the UCI has handled the case would be laughable, if it had not been so tragic for the versatile and likeable Dane.
Here’s how he explained his getting in to the mess to us, last summer.
Alex, please start by reminding us of the infringements which lead to this situation.
“When I rode for Saxo Bank in 2009/10 we had our own system for whereabouts, but then in 2011 the system changed to ADAMS (Anti-Doping & Management System) and I didn’t really fully understand it.
“That was what caused the problem when I was riding in Berlin at the six days; I thought that you just updated the information – but you have to ‘submit,’ which I failed to do.
“The second one came about because I was a day or two late submitting what we call our ‘quarters’ – that’s the information regarding where we’re going to be for the next three months.
“The third one was my fault, I went back to Denmark from Girona and I forgot to update – no excuses.”
But wasn’t it the case that you were tested during the Berlin Six Day?
“Yes, I can’t remember if it was once or twice, but I was certainly tested.”
Does the UCI warn you when you are on two infringements?
“No, there’s nothing like that in place, you have to self-check.”
What was your lawyer’s view of your situation, prior to the hearing?
“Under WADA rules, because the UCI were so late in notifying me of the infringement – 10 or 12 weeks instead of two – it should have been discarded.
“When this first broke it was like a bolt from the blue, during the Tour of Britain. Most other sports subscribe to the WADA codes – but the UCI doesn’t.”
Rasmussen was certainly blessed with good genes: his father Claus was a multiple Danish track champion who rode the kilometre at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984.
The young ‘Razi’ gained his first medal with bronze in the Danish junior sprint championship in 2000. Within a year he was junior national champion in the sprint, team pursuit and kilometre, and added the senior titles in the latter two for good measure.
Five more national track titles came his way in 2002 along with his first Worlds medal; bronze in the junior scratch championship.
The progression continued over the following seasons, with multiple Danish titles, European and World Cup track podiums, his first win a UiV Cup race – the U23 six day series in 2004 – then European and World scratch titles in 2005.
His Euro Madison title saw him partner Michael Mørkøv to victory.
Road successes began to pile up in 2006 including the Tour of Berlin, where he out sprinted a certain Mark Cavendish, and the Danish under 23 time trial title.
He and Mørkøv also picked up second place in the Six Days of Grenoble.
In the years since his career has continued to gain pace.
His results in that time have included the Danish elite road title, four stages in the Tour of Qinghai Lake, World titles in the team pursuit, Madison, and scratch races, Six Day wins, two stages in the Four Days of Dunkirk, a time trial win over Bradley Wiggins and Tony Martin in the Ruta del Sol, plus the GP Herning.
He narrowly missed out on victory in the final TT of the 2011 Giro to David Millar after puncturing in the last kilometre and won the highly desirable and hard fought GP Philadelphia.
The whereabouts bombshell landed during the 2011 Tour of Britain and Rasmussen was suspended but cleared by the Danish Federation, riding the 2012 Giro.
But the UCI were determined to get their man and appealed the Danish Federation’s decision to CAS.
Rasmussen was at the Danish team’s Olympic altitude training camp in Livigno preparing for the Olympics when the verdict came through that CAS had upheld the UCI appeal on the grounds that whilst the UCI had been remiss with their late notification, it did not affect the fact that there had been three infringements and Rasmussen had to be punished.
And in addition the suspension was period was raised from 12 months to 18.
But the story doesn’t end there. Rasmussen was informed by the UCI in January that he could come back to competition on the 26th of the month.
He was on his way to the Danish team’s training camp for the track Worlds in Minsk when he was notified – without explanation or apology – that this decision was rescinded and he could not in fact resume racing until today.
We spoke to Alex a couple of days ago (Wednesday the 13th) in advance of his suspension being lifted.
What was your last race, Alex?
“The Ster ZLM Toer; I went from there to the Danish Olympic training camp.
“We were going very well, recording a 3:54 in training and I think there’s not much doubt that we’d have been in the medals if I’d been in the team. [The Danish team was 5th in London with a best of 3:57]”
How has your training been going?
“I had a little break to get my head organised after the disappointment of not going to London; but then I got back into training and rode as normal up to the time of the Franco Belge race – which would be when my season should have ended.
“I took another break after that then began training again as if for a normal season. It’s cool in Gerona because there are always guys to train with; even when most of the teams were at San Luis, Down Under or Oman, there were Danish Continental teams down here for training camps and I was able to ride with them.
“By then the teams were back and I was able to train with riders like Greg Henderson and Dan Martin – and the GreenEdge guys, too.
“Gerona has a great cycling community and being part of that makes it easier to train – and there are no days when it’s too cold to train. Not like in Denmark with the snow and it’s just too cold to train.”
A silly question, but do you miss having the team mechanic?
“Not that aspect, but I do miss hanging out at the Service Course with the guys.”
How’s the weight?
“My weight always goes up in the off season; it’s always been an aspect that I have to work on.
“I have the power and I have the sprint; my biggest issue is to work on my weight.”
Tell us about the latest in the UCI saga.
“They sent two separate letters, one to me and my manager and one to the Danish Federation saying that I could come back to competition from January 26th.
“The reason was that whilst the suspension was for 18 months, if you take off the 64 days I was provisionally suspended when the World Championships were taking place in Copenhagen then that would be January 26th.
“I was on my way to the airport to go to the Danish team training camp for the World Track Chamionships in Minsk when I received word that the suspension was actually still going to run until March.
“There was no explanation or apology – I was devastated.”
Iljo Keisse told me he could have bought a nice house with what his legal bills were for his case.
“The lawyers are really, really expensive – and there’s no salary coming in, but you’ve no choice.
“It’s a ‘lose, lose’ situation that you’re in.”
Has the Danish Media been supportive?
“Yeah, yeah, really good – I was honest from the start and they’ve been speaking to DS and riders, all of whom say that there’s no way I’m a doper. It’s just something I’d never do – I don’t think this generation even thinks about it.
“If you dope nowadays then you’re an idiot – you’re helping to destroy cycling.”
It must be hard for you that those in the Armstrong Scandal get one third of the suspension you do – and in the off season?
“I know the guys concerned and one of them is embarrassed by the situation – and you have to remember that my suspension has affected three seasons, not just one.
“I think there’s not much doubt that the UCI wanted to set a hard example with me – even although they messed it up more than once.
“If it had been handled properly at the start then at worst I’d have had a one year ban – as I said, this has had an impact on three seasons.”
I still can’t figure out how Gregory Bauge can have three infringements but they back-date the suspension, he loses the results but doesn’t miss a beat and goes to London?
“The UCI do seem to pick and choose how the rules are applied – maybe I’ve just been unlucky?”
Did you ever think of going to the European Court of Human Rights?
“If someone explained the procedures to me and I felt that I had a chance of success then I may have done.
“But I felt that when I defended myself and things were going in my favor it seemed to make the UCI all the more determined to bring me down. When the Danish Federation cleared me it was in line with the WADA rule book.
“But CAS and the UCI said that even though the UCI had messed up, I had messed up too and so had to be punished.
“The WADA rules should apply everywhere.”
What do you miss most?
“Being with my team mates, being in the peloton, seeing the crowds – that’s what I miss most.”
It must have stung missing the Copenhagen Six Day.
“There have been four huge events which I’ve missed due to all of this – the Copenhagen Six Day, the Road Worlds in Copenhagen, the Olympics and the Track Worlds in Minsk.
“There have been so many opportunities to win races and championships which have been denied me.”
It’s rather taken for granted that you’ll go back to Garmin?
“Maybe, but it’s not cast in stone.
“But my manager and I are hoping that JV takes me back on board and gives me another chance.
“I hope to sign a contract before the weekend; I know it’ll be really hard to make the Classics team but I’d love to make it into Paris-Roubaix – I really love that race.”
There must have been other teams interested?
“For sure, but the problem is that they don’t know what level I’m at – even if I could have ridden a few races late last year I could have demonstrated that I’m in good shape.
“It’s really hard to get back in at the highest level.”
What do you want from 2013?
“I want to prove how highly motivated I am – I don’t want any pity, I just want to prove that what happened to me was unfair and what I’m really capable of.”