Among the most impressive performances in the Tour this year are those of Michael Boogerd and Thomas Dekker of the Rabobank team. Boogerd and Dekker rode hard and fast for three weeks to help teammate and former yellow jersey holder, Michael Rasmussen. Alas, just as victory seemed within the grasp of the Rabo team, Rasmussen was fired by the team manager for allegedly lying about his whereabouts in June (pre-Tour training).
On the night that Rasmussen was sent away, team members got together and drank heavily (to drown out their sorrows), thinking they would not start the next day. Rabobank gave them the option of not starting the next day and when the staff came to wake them, it took a while for them to decide to ride.
But they got on the team bus and in the midst of jeers from the crowd, got on their bikes. Michael Boogerd was still very upset about the previous night’s drama and devastated about having ridden for three weeks for nothing. He is 35 and this is his last race. Yet later in stage 17 (Pau to Castelsarrasin), Michael decided to go for it while his teammate and Rabo leader Denis Menchov decided to abandon the race.
Michael Boogerd’s mental discipline powers his ride
Why did Michael suddenly decide to race as if the devil were chasing him? In a post-stage interview, he said, “My legs felt good.”
Indeed next day, stage 18 (Cahors to Angouleme), Boogerd did even better, as if ten devils were chasing him. He came in 4th. In the last time trial yesterday (stage 19 from Cognac to Angouleme), he came in 13th.
It’s clear to see why people like Michael Boogerd end up at the top of their profession and racing in the Tour de France. The most cynical among us would say, “Yeah, copious amounts of medical supplements.” But if you’re that cynical, don’t watch any sporting events.
In this situation you have a guy who is retiring after the race, has gone through possibly the worst day in his life, and yet he decides that since he’s still got good legs, should give the best performance he can muster. At the age of 35, he’s up against much younger competitors like teammate, Thomas Dekker (22) and he still ends up beating them. Better yet, as the peloton heads to Paris today, Boogerd is 12th in the GC.
When the yellow jersey is handed out today to a guy with just as many questions hanging over his head as Rasmussen (see my earlier story on Contador), I’m going to hold my own yellow jersey ceremony and it goes to Michael Boogerd.
Thomas Dekker: a most promising rider
Thomas Dekker has at the age of 22 put in such an astounding performance during the Tour. He kept up the furious pace that was needed to help Rasmussen maintain his yellow jersey position. Like Boogerd, he wanted to abandon the race after Rasmussen had been fired, but he kept going. At the end of stage 19 (Cognac to Angouleme, the last stage before going to Paris today), he is in 35th place in a peloton of 141. To perform at this level at the age of 22 makes him one of the most promising riders in cycling today.
What’s funny is that he and Boogerd were roommates together during the entire Tour. No doubt he’s absorbed a lot of advice from his veteran teammate.
Thomas Dekker gets the Baby Yellow Jersey in my private ceremony today.