Why the yellow jersey should be banned

Those of us initially surprised by Michael Rasmussen's 11th place in yesterday's 54km time trial should stop being such cynics.


Those of us initially surprised by Michael Rasmussen’s 11th place in yesterday’s 54km time trial should stop being such cynics.


Rasmussen had a perfectly reasonable explanation for his metamorphosis from whipping boy to time trialling superhero. Decent chap that he is, in his post-race press conference last night, the Dane even let us in on his secret: “Setting off last with the yellow jersey was a massive motivational factor,” he elucidated.

This set me thinking. When he took the yellow jersey in Tignes last weekend, Rasmussen made a curious statement. He said “the yellow jersey would be [his] doping”. At the time I thought that he was only jessing, that it was just a throwaway line, but yesterday I realised that it was anything but. The yellow jersey is like a potent drug. In fact, on the evidence of yesterday, it’s so damn powerful it should be the first item on the UCI banned list.

Let’s look at the evidence. I’ve done a few sums (in fact it’s taken about three hours) and worked out that, in eighteen major tour time trials in his career, Rasmussen has lost an average of 7.47 seconds per kilometre to the winner. Bad, yes, but bear in mind that those 18 time trials, 574.6km in total, were all ridden without the yellow jersey and its magic powers; yesterday, with it, Rasmussen’s arrears were just 3.24 seconds per kilometre. Now, my maths isn’t the best, but I make that a 100 per cent improvement.

It gets better. On average, Rasmussen finishes major tour time trials in 98th place; yesterday, wearing yellow, he was eleventh. That’s an 87-place improvement. EPO is meant to give you 15 per cent more, human growth hormone maybe ten, and throw in a few percent for steroids, but there’s still no photo. I can only conclude that the UCI should bypass the task force, forget the lab tests, and get that jersey in quarantine as soon as possible.

The only alternative I can think of is a colour-change. OK, we’ve seen leaders’ jerseys of a different hue inspire riders before, but never quite as much as Rasmussen yesterday. Perhaps the pink used in the Giro might be better. Or the gold favoured by the Vuelta. Or perhaps any colour of the race leader’s choosing, providing it’s not yellow.

I’ve heard that Rasmussen, for instance, is a big fan of riding in black.

In case you’re interested, he’s a complete record of Rasmussen’s performances in major tour time trials and all the support I’ll ever need for my campaign to see the yellow jersey banned from the Tour.


2002 Giro d’Italia

Groningen prologue, 6.5 km
Winner: Rik Verbrugghe
88th Michael Rasmussen @ 32 seconds

Numana-Numana 30.3 km
Winner: 1 Tyler Hamilton
102 Michael Rasmussen @ 4.54

Cambiago-Monticello Brianza ITT, 43 km
Winner: 1 Aitor Gonzalez Jimenez
60 Michael Rasmussen @ 5.58

2003 Vuelta a España

Zaragoza – Zaragoza, 43.8km ITT
Winner: Isidro Nozal
47 Michael Rasmussen @ 5.02

Albacete – Albacete, 53.3km ITT
Winner: Isidro Nozal
38 Michael Rasmussen @ 4.40

San Lorenzo de El Escorial – Alto de Abantos, 11.2km ITT
Winner: Roberto Heras
24 Michael Rasmussen @ 1.40

2004 Tour de France
Liège prologue, 6.1km
Winner: Fabian Cancellara
157 Michael Rasmussen @ 44 secs

Besancon – Besancon ITT, 55 km
Winner: Lance Armstrong
42 Michael Rasmussen @ 6.56

Bourg d’Oisans – Alpe d’Huez ITT, 15.5 km
Winner: Lance Armstrong
53 Michael Rasmussen @ 5.08

2005 Tour de France
St Etienne – St Etienne 55km
Winner: Lance Armstrong
77 Michael Rasmussen @ 7.47

Fromentine – Noirmoutier-en-l’Ile ITT, 19 km
Winner: David Zabriskie
174 Michael Rasmussen @ 3.14

2006 Giro d’Italia
Seraing – Seraing ITT, 6.2 km
Winner: Paolo Savoldelli
133 Michael Rasmussen @ 1.03

Pontedera – Pontedera ITT, 50 km
Winner: Jan Ullrich
109 Michael Rasmussen @ 6.47

2006 Tour de France
Strasbourg prologue 7km
Winner: Thor Hushovd
158 Michael Rasmussen @ 48 secs

Saint-Grégoire – Rennes ITT, 52 km
Winner: Serguei Gonchar
114 Michael Rasmussen @ 6.30

Le Creusot – Montceau-les-Mines ITT, 57 km
1 Serguei Gonchar
85 Michael Rasmussen @ 8.51

2007 Giro d’Italia
Biella – Santuario Di Oropa, 12.6 km
Winner: Marzio Bruseghin
66 Michael Rasmussen @ 3.29

Bardolino – Verona 43km
Winner: Paolo Savoldelli
59 Michael Rasmussen @ 5.04

2007 Tour de France
London prologue 8km
Winner: Fabian Cancellara
166 Michael Rasmussen @ 1.16


Total kilometres in major tour individual time trials before 2007 Tour de France stage 13: 574.6km
Total seconds lost to winner: 4292
Average seconds lost per kilometre: 7.47
Average finishing position in 18 major tour time trials: 98th


2007 Tour de France
Albi – Albi 54km
Winner: Alexandre Vinokourov
11 Michael Rasmussen @ 2.55
Seconds lost per kilometre: 3.24