Rasmussen flies the coop

After weeks playing a supporting role for the Rabobank team in the Tour de France, Michael 'the Chicken' Rasmussen strikes and reassumes his King of the Mountains crown

With fiery individualistic spirit and thoughts sent to his wife in Italy, Michael Rasmussen broke from the pack and took the 16th stage of the Tour de France on Wednesday.

The stage held special significance for Rasmussen who had been relegated to a supporting role for Denis Menchov on his Rabobank team.

'I had worked for the team up until now, because there was a chance that Menchov could win the Tour. But after our disappointing day on Tuesday, I said it was time to do things my way,' Rasmussen told daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

Rasmussen, better known as 'the Chicken' in his hometown of Tølløse, 40 km west of Copenhagen, can thank his early career as a mountain biking champion for building his high-altitude stamina.

He burst onto the international scene last year after taking the polka-dotted jersey in last year's Tour.

This year's tour, however, had proved a frustrating one- until yesterday's stage.

'I knew I had to take things into my own hands. It was a long and painful day, but that is forgotten now,' said Rasmussen, who broke into tears after crossing the finish line.

'I was simply overwhelmed. I told my wife Tuesday that I would win for her. That didn't happen,' Rasmussen told daily newspaper B.T. 'So I felt I had a great deal to prove today. To myself and my team. But also to my wife and my child.'

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