One of the men who enlivened the race amidst what was a pretty dull GC battle in this year’s Tour de France was Saxo Bank –Tinkoff Bank rider, Michael Mørkøv. The Dane wore the leaders’ jersey for the king of the mountains during the first week and was in the breakaway more than 800 kilometres during le Tour.
But Mørkøv’s roots stretch deep back into the timber boards of the velodrome and within days of finishing the world’s toughest stage race, he was lapping the London velodrome in that fastest and most skilful of disciplines – the team pursuit.
Mørkøv won his first track medal in the Danish junior team pursuit championships in 2001; by 2003 he was national junior points champion and made the elite points his own the following year.
He formed a very successful partnership with countryman Marc Hester in the UiV Cup (U23 Six Days)- but it was with Alex Rasmussen that he won the U23 European madison title in 2005.
The following season saw him win national medals in the madison, TTT, pursuit, scratch and points – and he was now performing well at World Cup level in the team pursuit and Madison, with Alex Rasmussen.
In 2007 he lifted his first Worlds medal – bronze in the team pursuit – was second in the U23 Tour of Flanders and won his first six day with Rasmussen at Grenoble.
Olympic year saw him go home with team pursuit silver from Beijing, win multiple Danish championships and take his first UCI road win, a stage in the Giro del Capo.
There was a rainbow jersey in 2009, with Rasmussen in the Madison, and the duo also won the Six Days of Copenhagen and Gent.
His Grand Tour debut came in 2010 in the Giro where a young Saxo team performed strongly.
He again paired with Rasmussen to win sixes in Copenhagen and Berlin.
The Copenhagen Six Day hat trick came at the start of 2011, before he backed Alberto Contador to an emphatic win in the Giro d’Italia (later scrubbed from the record book).
There were wins too in Danish criteriums and a close second to Elia Viviani in a stage of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado.
Last season ended with a fine 18th place in the world elite road race championships in his home city of Copenhagen.
This spring saw Mørkøv extremely active in breakaways in the cobbled classics, gaining valuable column inches and TV time for his sponsors.
And his riding in the Tour so impressed Alberto Contador that he specifically requested Mørkøv be part of his Vuelta team.
We caught up with Michael in Denmark, a few days after he’d returned from London and about to ride a series of criteriums in Denmark.
You wouldn’t get much chance to rest between the Tour and Olympics, Michael?
“I spent a few days resting but my recovery was good, quick.
“I started training on the boards at the Ballerup track in Copenhagen and was very pleased with how I felt.
“I was also pleased that we were able ride a 3:57 in London.”
It didn’t take long to find your ‘track legs’ then?
“I was worried that with coming out of the Tour I may have lost a few kilos and some power – which you need to push the big gears we ride in the team pursuit.
“But I couldn’t have gone any better; I think that riding the Tour de France was the perfect preparation for London.
“There were guys who doubted my ability to do both events – but I think I showed them that I could.”
What about getting used to changing?
“It’s a very technical event and you need a lot of skill to carry out the change properly– but you have to consider my background.
“I’ve been riding the track at the highest level since 2004 in World Cups and World Championships so I’ve developed my skills over a long period.”