Sunday, July 25, 2021
HomeInterviewsAlex Rasmussen - Calling Time on Professional Cycling

Alex Rasmussen – Calling Time on Professional Cycling


Alex Rasmussen
Alex Rasmussen.

He’s been one of the outstanding track riders of the last decade,  world champion four times across three disciplines‎ – scratch (twice), madison with Michael Mørkøv and team pursuit.

‎There’s been a raft of national, European and World Cup titles and podiums not to mention an Olympic team pursuit silver‎.

On the Six Day scene he’s won in Berlin, Bremen, Copenhagen, Ghent and Grenoble.

‎And that’s before we mention his road palmarés – two stages in the Dunkirk Four Day, the GP Herning, Philadelphia…

But Alex Rasmussen has called ‘time’ on all of that and will race this season on a low key domestic programme.

We caught up with him the day before he rode his last ever Six Day chases in the Six Days of Copenhagen in Ballerup.

Your dad raced, is that how you started? 

“I started very young at six years of age but then I got sick of it when I was maybe 12 years-old and played soccer and ice hockey – but I came back to it when I was 15.”

Who were your idols as a youngster? 

“I didn’t have any but I remember watching the track Worlds and thinking the big American sprinter,  Marty Nothstein was pretty cool.”

Alex Rasmussen
Alex has been racing bikes most of his life. Photo©Ed Hood

We chatted the other day about your Beijing Olympic training experience being hard work.

“‎Only the preparation we did to accustom us to the time difference, getting up at 04:00 am and going to bed at 7:00 pm – I would have acclimatised to the new time zone quickly without the need for that.

“The altitude training camps we h‎ad in Mexico and South Africa were good, I enjoyed those.

“The training was very short, sharp, intense – we trained twice each day.”

Going professional with Bjarne Riis at Saxo – what was that like? 

“We didn’t see that much of Bjarne, our DS was Brad McGee. He was our contact and I was happy working with him.

“Saxo was the team to turn pro with if you were a Danish guy and I liked my time there but was disappointed not to get the opportunity to ride Paris-Roubaix.

“‎But of course the team for that was built around  ‎Fabian Cancellara.”

Phili was a big win for you – that’s a six hour race…

“I was surprised to win that one – I had just finished the Giro four or five days before and was tired.

“I’d gone home to Gerona then flew to the US, I hadn’t really done any training, just one hour rides.

“At the start of the race I wasn’t even thinking about finishing, we were there for Leigh Howard.

“But coming in to the finish he had problems with his electric gears so I thought I might as well give it a go!”

Alex Rasmussen
Michael Mørkøv and Alex were a great pairing. Photo©Ed Hood

You were close to a Grand Tour stage win, weren’t you?

“Yeah, that same year, 2011 with HTC.

“I was at least 20 seconds up on David Millar, who won the stage, inside the last kilometre when I punctured.

“It was a really technical finish over big Italian stone slabs and you just couldn’t go fast – I lost the stage by seven seconds. [Alberto Contador was third on the stage, ed.]

Alex Rasmussen
Allan Peiper hands instructions and a bottle to Alex in the 2012 Giro. Photo©Ed Hood

Your ‘whereabouts’ suspension; it seemed you were perhaps not the same rider after that.

“To tell the truth it was all so complicated that I don’t remember the exact details – but I do know that my legal guys narrowed it down to just one of the three ‘strikes’ being valid.

“The UCI made mistakes for sure but they wanted to make an example of me and make a statement about their ‘whereabouts’ system.

“I’ve no idea what would have happened if I’d managed to get the ban overturned but the suspension denied me a ride in my home city Worlds in Copenhagen and also meant I didn’t go to the London Olympics.

“As I say, I can’t say what would have happened but I do know that I was flying when the ban was imposed.

“The team (Garmin) was supportive, they waited for the UCI verdict but the bottom line is that I lost 18 months of my career.”

But you won your first race back?

“Yeah, a stage in the Bayern Rundfahrt, that was nice; to know that I still had that within me.”

Alex Rasmussen
Alex taking stage 1 of the 2013 Bayern Rundfahrt. Photo©Zielsprint

But Garmin didn’t retain you?

“After Bayern I think I rode pretty decently but then I went to the Vuelta where we were riding for Dan Martin – but he didn’t have a good race and I think that there was an element of punishment applying, not retaining guys who rode that Vuelta.”

Why the disillusionment with the Six Days?

“I’m just done with it – I don’t think I’ll ever come back to it.

“The contract fees are down and the prestige of the Sixes is no longer as it was.

“You remember what the Sixes were like, and how Michael and I approached them? ‎I just don’t feel like that anymore.

“The road dominates now and the Six Day scene just isn’t the same. People say; ‘but you still get a contract for €X, even when you pay your staff you’re still doing OK? ‘ but you can’t look at it that way. You can’t just appear and ride, I mean, I had to do a training camp to prepare myself for the Six Days – then there’s two bikes, six pairs of wheels and ‎the cost of tyres…”

When were you happiest on the bike?

“Being World Scratch Champion was cool, if you’re a fast guy then it’s your ‘thing’ and a nice race to win.

“I won in LA but then it was really special to win for the second time here at Ballerup.

“Winning the team pursuit was a great experience – the team was good but not as strong as they are now.

“‎And my time at Saxo was good.”

Alex Rasmussen
Alex was World Scratch Race Champion in 2010. Photo@AP

Has becoming a husband and father made a difference to your mentality?

“I’m in a different place mentally to where I was, yes – you know that many good athletes are a little crazy?

“You remember that I wasn’t that organised or responsible and didn’t give a rat’s behind about much – I just wanted to win!

“Even before I got married I was changing, rather than wanting to just win I became more conscious of a desire to help other riders, especially the young guys.

“I prefer now not to have the pressure and responsibility of being expected to win.”

You’re vegan now – do you feel that’s affected your performance?

“Not at all, it’s helped me stay lean even though I’ve not being training as much as I used to.”

Alex Rasmussen
Ripping around a Six Day track was something Alex excelled at. Photo©John Young

And it’s a lower key 2017 for you?

“Yes, amateur racing, taking it day by day – and I want to build up my company, focus on speaking at events, here at the Six for example, doing promotions for VIP’s and perhaps promoting sportives.

“I have a lot of contacts and experience and I intend to make the most of that.”

Alex Rasmussen
Alex is aiming to stay involved in the sport after stopping racing. Photo©


“I’m quite happy with how my career went – obviously I regret the situation with the whereabouts but even that I intend to speak about, us it.

“When I speak about my career it’s not just going to be about the successes.

“I do regret not wearing the maglia rosa in the Giro though; I was third in the prologue and if I’d stayed with the team in the TTT I’d have taken it. The course was pan flat but there was a hill – quite steep – at the end. I’d used myself up early in the stage and was dropped on the climb.

“Like I said, it would have been nice to have worn pink…”

We’ll miss the man and wish him ‘all the best’ with his new direction in life.

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

Rotterdam Six Day 2011 – Day Four, No Windows, No Clocks

The theme from 'Star Wars' plays as the U23 riders victory ceremony gets underway - not long 'til the lunch time kick off. I haven't seen much of the U23 event, the riders don't share the area we're in and when their racing is on I'm usually busy getting our cabin set up. There's more of that confusing team changing thing going on again - Terpstra is now with Lampater who was with Stroetinga until he crashed.

Lotto Zesdaagse van Hasselt 2007 – Day 5

I've arrived; Matt Gilmore said "hello" to me today here at the Lotto Zesdaagse van Hasselt 2007 - wow! It's the Chocolate Jacques team presentation during the six tonight and Matt is here as part of that gig. "Rambo" is here too - Niko Eeckhout, last June in Antwerp at the Belgian elite champs he was in the break with Boonen; the Tomeke fans had their man as a cert to win.

Gent Six Day 2010 – Nights Five and Six, Iljo-Schep Hold On

It's Monday morning, I'm sitting in some horrible 'theme' bar at Charleroi Airport. My flight home to Edinburgh is cancelled due to the snow in Auld Scotia and the best I could wangle was Charleroi to Dublin, tonight then Dublin to Prestwick in the morning. My pal Dave has booked me into a hotel at Dublin airport, so I'm as sorted as I can be. The alternative flight from here was late on Wednesday night. The six all seems a long time ago...

Copenhagen Six Day 2009 – Day 5

Susie, my chow chow would love these meat balls; cold, greasy, smelly with around one percent meat content; it's a pity she's not here - but think how awful it would be if she bit Danny Stam. Dinner time at the restaurant; day one the food was cool, but as the week goes on, the menu refuses to budge and the temperature of the food drops; 'not good for riders to eat cold pasta,' says Ronnie our number two soigneur.

Grenoble Six Day 2006 – Second Night

Grenoble Six Day 2006. 17.45: Where did the day go? They are playing Puccini over the stadium PA, the folies girls are rehearsing their routine, you would have to be here to appreciate it, but it's awesome.

John Pierce – My Favourite Six Day Men; by one of the World’s Best Photographers

It’s not every day that you receive pictures from one of the world’s best cycling photographers – they’re way too good to keep to ourselves so with Mr. John Pierce’s permission allow us to share his memories of some of his favourite Six Day riders of the 70’s and 80’s. John attended the last London Six in 1980 and these first images are from that race.

At Random

Scottish Hill Climb Championships 2010 – Preview

Promoted by Sandy Wallace Cycles, the Scottish Hill Climb Championships 2010 takes place on Sunday on the Purrin Den ascent in Fife, and around 35 hardy souls are preparing to put themselves through the seven minutes (and more) of pain it'll take to see the relay station at the finish...

The VeloVeritas Years – 2014: Trackside at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games

It's almost time for the Commonwealth Games again, this time around they're being held in Australia's Gold Coast, on the eastern edge of the country and this edition will be the first time the men and women compete in the same number of events. In 2014 though, all the excitement was around the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, the third time Scotland had played host to the huge number of athletes from around the world.

Stephen Hall’s ‘Three Rules of Racing in Belgium’

did the last day of the Berlin Six Day, this year and one of the riders I was looking after was Australian Stephen Hall, son of former British Madison Champion, Murray Hall. It transpires Stephen is no mean wordsmith; we thought you might like to read his "Rules for Racing in Belgium" - whilst they're from an Aussie perspective so much of it is rock solid advice irrespective of your nationality, based on experience.

The Champ Rolls On

The Champ Rolls On... I can remember seeing the photos from the presentation of the teams at the start of the race and thinking how embarrassing it was for the Garmin team to be doing their bow down to Thor thing while he held up a warhammer. I was clearly completely wrong!

Giro d’Italia 2013 – Stage 1: Naples, 130km. No Caveats, Cav’s the best.

Goss had a perfect lead out on Stage 1 of the Giro d'Italia; Viviani can beat his ‘bars all he wants - but Cav is King. The QuickStep boys did their job early but it all went mass critical on that last lap. Steegmans was with Cavendish coming into the final, then seemed to have a mechanical - it was all down to Mark.

Welcome to the all-new VeloVeritas!

We're pleased to be able to present our relaunched site, now renamed "VeloVeritas" (ie. the truth about cycle racing and racers). We aim to provide you with truthful, accurate, unique and informative articles about the sport we love, and we'll do that by covering all aspects of cycling by being there, in the mix: from the local "10" mile time trial to the world-famous professional "monuments" - classics like Milan-SanRemo and the Tour of Lombardy, to the World Championships, the winter Six-Days and the Grand Tours - the Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a España.