He’s a versatile man that Michael Mørkøv; world champion on the track, Grand Tour stage winner, Cobbled Classics breakaway specialist, Six Day vedette, Danish Elite Road Race Champion, Classic podium finisher – and now…
And now – arguably the best lead-out man in the business; right hand man to the man with the most successes this year, QuickStep’s rapid Italian Elite Road Race Champion Elia Viviani, with 17 winner’s bouquets in 2018 so far, including the final stage of the Vuelta in Madrid.
And both men are part of the mighty QuickStep machine which at time of writing was on 68 victories and counting, including Viviani’s three Vuelta stage wins.
We caught up with Michael on the Vuelta’s second rest day – 24 hours after the mighty Lagos de Covadonga stage.
Some nice work with Elia, Michael congratulations – how was Covadonga?
“It’s not something I would usually say about a climb but it was a very nice experience.
“The surface was good, it was a good length and the changes of gradient make it an ideal place for the pure climbers – lots of opportunities for them to launch attacks.”
And what did you do on the rest day?
“Just a small ride, one hour to turn the legs.
“There are only two Danes riding the race, just me and my young QuickStep team mate, Kasper Asgreen so we get a lot of attention from the Danish TV and newspapers which we have to deal with.”
You were always a man who was into your equipment and clothing – your Danish champion’s jersey looks great with those black shorts.
“Yes, my national champion’s jersey and Elia Viviani’s too look great with black shorts.
“Our sponsors have been fantastic; DeFeet provided Elia and me with custom national champion socks, for example.
“Specialized too have been superb, colour-coordinating my shoes and my helmet, and Ekoi (our sunglasses sponsor) supplied custom versions as well.”
My mentor Viktor thinks that you’ve fitted into QuickStep beautifully, maybe your best ever ‘fit’ with a team?
“I have the same feeling; there were plus and minus points at Katusha but I do really feel like I fit in here – and having Elia on such good form helps, obviously.
“I was lucky that they needed someone like me who is experienced and not afraid to take responsibility.
“They have all this young talent on the team and they need someone to guide them – I showed up at the right time!”
You’ve quickly formed a great bond with Elia.
“Absolutely, right from the start at the Tour Down Under [where Viviani won Stage Three, ed.]
“We knew each other from track racing and on the road but we quickly built a good understanding.
“We have the same ideas and approach about our jobs – Elia is perhaps the most dedicated rider I’ve met, he’s very serious about his sport and profession.”
What’s been the hi-lite of the season for you?
“It’s been great to be a part of the team’s successes this year but I have to say that winning the Danish Champion’s jersey again was beautiful.
“It’s difficult to win a national championship, they can be very tactical and there was just me and Kasper from QuickStep; so to win ahead of all the great young talent Denmark has right now was pretty special – I was very proud to win again.”
[Michael also won the title in 2013, the year he won a Vuelta stage and was second in Paris-Tours, ed.]
When Tom Boonen retired fans of the team were worried that the QuickStep ‘talisman’ was gone – but the team has actually won more races than ever.
“When I joined some folks were thinking that with so many of the ‘heavy duty’ guys gone things would be difficult, not just Tom Boonen as you say, but also Marcel Kittel, Tony Martin, Matteo Trentin, Gianluca Brambilla…
“But there’s so much amazing young talent on the team that we’ve had this great year.”
Tell us about working with Patrick Lefevre.
“When it comes to letting riders go and bringing new ones on board he’s the best, not just this year but every year – look at the guys he’s developed; as well as the winners there’s top domestiques too.
“Patrick is one of the best managers I’ve ever worked with; we all have a lot of respect for him but he’s a very friendly, open man… easy to speak to.
“He’s always there at the races, an easy guy to be around.”
Who coaches you these days?
“I have a coach on the team, Koen Pelgrim.
“I’ve had a few coaches during my career and it’s always exciting to see what ideas a new coach will bring.
“From day one we had a good understanding, he knew that I was an experienced rider and didn’t give me schedules to stick to or anything like that but we have good discussions about new ideas and methods.”
And are you still living in Copenhagen?
“Yes, that works really well.
“I miss living in Lucca in Tuscany with the quiet roads and the good weather but whilst I have a little traffic on the way out of Copenhagen it’s good for training and all I need is there.”
Now that you have a young family it must be hard to be away from home?
“Absolutely – in the past I used to love being away for weeks on end at races and going from one training camp to the next but now I have to think about my wife and all the hard works she does with our kids when I’m away at a three week Tour or a training camp. It’s definitely harder to leave home now.”
What’s the agenda after the Vuelta?
“It’s pretty much my last race on the road for this season, I’m going to the track to try and qualify for the madison at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
“The UCI rules are complicated now, we have to ride track races to qualify for the World Cups so as we can then qualify for The Games.
“I’ll be riding the madison in a track meeting at Bordeaux in a fortnight with Lasse Norman [Danish professional who was with the ill-fated Aqua Blue team until recently; winner of the Olympic omnium in 2012 and was bronze medallist in 2016 behind Viviani – he might well have won had he not ridden a disastrous elimination where he was one of the first out, ed.)] to try to qualify for the World Cup in Paris on October 21st.”
Will we be seeing you in the Six Days?
“I would love to ride Gent but it’s difficult to fit it in with my road programme – I think I’ll probably only ride my home Six at Copenhagen – that fits in nicely with the road programme.”
And you being ‘an equipment man’ I have to ask; what’s your opinion on the disc brakes that the team is running this year?
“I love them, they work really well and Shimano have altered the shifters so the hoods are almost like those for rim brakes, they’re very comfortable.
“The discs do an amazing job of stopping you, especially in the wet – and with the Specialized Tarmac and Venge frames specifically designed for discs they have very neat, clean lines, with everything integrated.”
Final question, what’s still on the Michael Mørkøv ‘to do’ list?
“An Olympic gold medal in the madison in Tokyo.”
You heard it here first, we wish Michael all the best with his ambition.