Rasmussen helps paint the Tour orange

Rabobank are in dreamland as Michael Rasmussen follows up yesterday's win by Pieter Weening with a s

Rabobank are in dreamland as Michael Rasmussen follows up yesterday's win by Pieter Weening with a s

PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM

For the first few days of this race, the riders on the Dutch Rabobank team were under the cosh from their home press. Deprived of the services of world champion Oscar Freire and dependent on the still unfulfilled talents of shy and retiring Russian Denis Menchov, the team in orange and blue decided their only chance of getting some good press was to attack whenever they had the chance, and this weekend that tactic has paid off royally.

What started slowly with Erik Dekker and Karsten Kroon enjoying spells in the mountains jersey, picked up greater momentum yesterday when Pieter Weening took a fine stage win and Michael Rasmussen a big lead in the mountains competition. Like yesterday, Rasmussen was out of the block fast again today, collecting maximum points over three early climbs, but today he maintained that momentum right through the stage to the finish in Mulhouse, where he took an epic solo victory after 168km at the front of the race.

The yellow jersey changed owner as well, but this time Discovery Channel were very much in control of what was going on and probably won't be unhappy to see responsibility for leading the race pass to Jens Voigt and CSC. There was no repeat of yesterday's frantic finish which saw Lance Armstrong totally isolated from his team-mates after a flurry of T-Mobile attacks. Instead, Voigt went for what he admitted was his last chance of taking the race lead, and Discovery let him have it.

With the leading contenders calling a temporary truce before tomorrow's rest day and Tuesday's crucial stage to the summit finish at Courchevel, Rasmussen set off early in his search for more King of the Mountains points. After wrapping up the first climb, where David Zabriskie and Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano both abandoned, the Rabobank rider was joined by his former mountain bike rival Dario Cioni (Liquigas-Bianchi). The pair worked together over the next three climbs, but a chase group including Voigt and Christophe Moreau that had formed on the first of them started to close in on the day's fifth climb, the Bussang. Rasmussen upped the pace here and dropped Cioni, then pressed on up the first-cat Ballon d'Alsace.

He crested it with a lead of more than four minutes on Voigt and Moreau, and with the yellow jersey peloton almost 10 minutes back. With less than 60 mainly downhill kilometres into the finish, Rasmussen was effectively out of reach of all but the pair chasing behind him. Somehow, though, it never quite happened for Voigt and Moreau, and the lanky Dane still had three minutes in hand as he crossed the line to give his suddenly rejuvenated team two wins over the weekend and a good lead in the mountains competition to boot.

Voigt, too, was happy as he went onto the podium after Rasmussen to collect the yellow jersey he previously wore for a day in 2001. "It was my last chance to take the lead and I'm more than happy to have it," said the popular German. "The next couple of days we go to Courchevel and over the Galibier and that's definitely not my terrain. But I knew I had good legs from yesterday and that if Discovery and T-Mobile let me go I would have the lead.

"People have been asking this week why I haven't been attacking as much as usual. Well, today I did and now I'm back."

Stage 9, Grardmer-Mulhouse

1 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank 171km in 4.08.20 (41.32kph)
2 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Crdit Agricole 3.04
3 Jens Voigt (Ger) CSC
4 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis 6.04
5 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Franaise des Jeux
6 Anthony Geslin (Fra) Bouygues Telecom
7 Sebastian Lang (Ger) Gerolsteiner
8 Laurent Brochard (Fra) Bouygues Telecom
9 Jrme Pineau (Fra) Bouygues Telecom
10 Gerrit Glomser (Aut) Lampre-Caffita

13 Chris Horner (USA) Saunier Duval
18 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel
23 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
28 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel
29 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile
35 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile
36 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears
39 Ivan Basso (Ita) CSC
46 Bobby Julich (USA) CSC
48 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner
51 Roberto Heras (Spa) Liberty Seguros
58 Brad McGee (Aus) Franaise des Jeux
59 Joseba Beloki (Spa) Liberty Seguros
70 Michael Rogers (Aus) Quick Step
72 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Illes Balears
73 Andreas Klden (Ger) T-Mobile
74 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak
81 Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC
86 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel
102 Luke Roberts (Aus) CSC 14.17
124 Baden Cooke (Aus) Franaise des Jeux 19.06
130 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Ag2r
137 Matt White (Aus) Cofidis
138 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
146 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Davitamon-Lotto
149 Robert Hunter (SA) Phonak
164 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros

DNF David Zabriskie (USA) CSC

Overall standings

1 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC 32.18.23
2 Moreau 1.50
3 Armstrong 2.18
4 Rasmussen 2.43
5 Vinokourov 3.20
6 Julich 3.25
7 Basso 3.44
8 Ullrich 3.54
9 Sastre
10 Hincapie 4.05
11 Klden 4.08
12 Landis

16 Leipheimer 4.49
18 Beloki 5.01
21 Heras 5.16
24 Valverde 5.42
25 Evans 5.47
27 Mancebo 5.57
37 Rogers 6.29
38 McGee 6.30
43 Horner 7.12
51 Mayo 8.06
62 O'Grady 9.11
98 Roberts 20.06
110 Rodriguez 26.40
119 Davis 31.14
122 White 33.07
132 McEwen 35.55
141 Cooke 39.08
155 Hunter 42.25
158 Gerrans 42.40

Points

1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step-Innergetic 133
2 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crdit Agricole 128
3 O'Grady 109
4 McEwen 96
5 Forster 75
6 Furlan 73

King of the Mountains

1 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank 88
2 Moreau 40
3 Voigt 37
4 Dario Cioni (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 34
5 Kloeden 20
6 Alexandre Moos (Swi) Phonak 20

Young rider: Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Illes Balears
Team: CSC

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