Danish cycling fans stunned, but believe move was correct

COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- Danes were stunned Thursday by the
ousting of Tour de France leader Michael Rasmussen from cycling's
premier event, but most appeared to approve the decision.

Rasmussen, who was on his way to become only the second Dane to
win the grueling race, was sent home late Wednesday by his Rabobank
team because of "incorrect'' information he gave about his
whereabouts last month when he missed random doping tests.

"I am shocked,'' Tom Lund, chairman of the Danish Cycling Union
told The Associated Press. But, he said Rabobank "did the right
thing because this is a situation that no serious team can live

The dismissal dashed Danes' hopes that a Rasmussen victory would
partially erase the sour taste left from former Tour champion
Bjarne Riis' doping confession in May.

Riis, long considered a national hero for being the only Dane to
have won the French cycling classic, admitted using
performance-enhancing drugs from 1993 to 1998, including during his
1996 Tour victory.

"I think this is sad,'' Alex Preuss, a resident in Rasmussen's
hometown Toelloese, west of Copenhagen, told the TV2 News channel.
"At last we had a rider who was worth something, and then he makes
a nonsense of it.''

Rasmussen missed random drug tests on May 8 and June 28, saying
he was training in Mexico. But a former rider, Davide Cassani,
claimed he saw Rasmussen in Italy in mid-June.

International rules require cyclists to inform officials of
their whereabouts for possible unannounced doping tests.

Considered the Tour's best climber in recent years, Rasmussen's
popularity grew at home after he won two Tour stages in 2005 and
2006. This year, he captured the overall leader's yellow jersey for
the first time after winning the eighth stage, and held onto it
through Wednesday's 16th stage, which he also won.

Some Danes still showed support for Rasmussen, nicknamed "the
chicken'' because of his long and skinny body.

"He is my winner and he always will be,'' said Bente Lehman,
another Toelloese resident.

Niels Nygaard, the chairman of Denmark's Olympic committee,
described Rabobank's decision as "sensible.''

"If Michael Rasmussen had crossed the finish line as the winner
of the Tour de France on Sunday, there still would be hefty
discussion and doubts about whether it was warranted or not,''
Nygaard said. "We are now avoiding that situation.''

Last week, Danish Cycling Union announced Rasmussen was kicked
off the national team because he failed to heed several warnings
about informing the federation of his whereabouts.

DCU said it made its decision on June 21 and informed Rasmussen
shortly afterward -- well before the Tour started. However, his
exclusion was not publicly announced until Rasmussen held the
yellow jersey at the Tour, when Danish reporters asked DCU whether
he would compete for Denmark at the World Championships in
September in Germany.

Lund, the DCU chairman, denied the federation contributed to
Rasmussen's fall.

"We never wished to hurt Michael Rasmussen. All we did was to
tell the truth,'' Lund said.