“What are you doing, you red fu**er?” The words of world champion, Tom Boonen (Belgium & Quick Step) to Danish rider, Michael Mørkøv when the youngster attacked, on team orders, in contravention of a Boonen-imposed ban on racing in yesterday’s stage of the Tour of Britain. As well as following Evan’s progress around Britain, I’ve been talking to Michael Mørkøv.
Before we hear what Evan has to say I thought you should hear Michael’s story from yesterday.
Tell us what happened, Michael.
“It was very irritating. We came here to race, not to get involved in this. The motor cyclists took us the wrong way in the neutral section and there was a delay to get the race back moving through the traffic. Michael Rogers (world time trial champion, Australia & T-Mobile) and Boonen became very angry at the delay and said: ‘We don’t race.’
“The little teams like us and the English guys got angry too because we wanted to race, but what can you say to the world champion? My manager had to work hard to get us into the race, so the organisers came to him when the ‘go-slow’ happened and said: ‘Hey, we let you into the race, we need you to help us now, get your guys to race.’ My manager was saying to me: ‘You must attack’. I was reluctant, but eventually I went up the road. That’s when Boonen came up to me.
“I said: ‘I’m just doing what I’m told’. Boonen said: ‘Take you ear-piece out and ignore it — we don’t race!’”
Evan’s take on events was pretty forthright…
What caused it all to go off, Evan?
“They didn’t want to race. The Pro Tour guys are all thinking about the Tour of Poland next week and they were just looking for an excuse not to race.
“They were saying that race-security has been poor, but it’s no worse than I’m used to; like I said I just don’t think they wanted to race.”
So how did it all start Evan?
“The motor bike police took us the wrong way in the neutralised section and there was a delay, because the traffic had to be cleared again on the route it took a while to get things moving again.
“It was then that Boonen sat down and they started joking about not racing, it got more serious and they said that they weren’t going to race for the first 30 ks as a protest.”
Who was prime-mover behind the boycott?
“It was Boonen. He chased me and the Danish guy (Michael Mørkøv) down after we went up the road and started ranting at us.”
Was it team-orders to go-up the road?
“Yes, John (Recycling manager and former British pro champion, John Herety) had been talking to the organisers and they were encouraging him to try and get the ball rolling so we went on the offensive, but Boonen put paid to that.”
Wasn’t the boycott initially meant to be for 30 ks?
“Yes, that was what the team managers had agreed anyway but it’s the second string guys who are managing the teams here, the top management are all at the Vuelta so the riders were just ignoring the guys in the cars.”
What are the rest of the guys in the team saying?
“Ben was going to try and grab the King of the Mountains yesterday but when he went to go for points they were jamminghim in. He’s very disappointed, but there’s a K.O.M. today so he’ll go for that to try and secure second in the competition.
“Kristan (Recycling leader, Kristan House) was very disappointed too. The stage went through his home area, all his friends and supporters were out to watch him and we rode past at 20 miles per hour. He was going to try and snatch bonuses to move-up into the top ten but it got worse at the finish because they said that there would be no sprint at the end.
“Instead, Quick Step went for it; Chicchi (2002 world under-23 champion of Italy & Quick Step) won the sprint but Kristan was at the back after just riding-in and he lost a lot of places in the GC.”
Do you think there was any substance to the protest?
“They were saying that the race-security in general was poor, but like I said it wasn’t that bad in my opinion. It was ironic too because there were good crowds despite the rain. It would have been a really hard stage if it had gone ahead though — probably the hardest of the race.”
What’s the prognosis for Sunday?
“John (manager Herety) has said that the run-in to London will be dangerous; there are no crowd-control barriers until the circuit so we’re just going to cruise in to the city.”
Tom Boonen-willing, we’ll be talking to Evan after that final stage in the centre of London this afternoon.