It’s been quite a season for Saxo-Tinkoff’s former World Madison Champion, Michael Mørkøv. The man from just north of Copenhagen was the prime animator in the Spring classics; wore the polka dot King of the Mountains leader’s jersey in the Tour de France for the first week; was in the Danish team pursuit squad which dipped under the magic four minutes in London and he was back off ‘up the road’ in the late season Northern European classics.
And now, he’s just won the first Six Day race of the winter – Amsterdam, with former Netherlands elite road race champion, Pim Ligthart.
Michael always has time to speak to VeloVeritas and the day after his Netherlands triumph, he took our call.
You’re back winning Six Days Michael, congratulations.
“Yeah it’s a year-and-a-half since my last Six Day win in Copenhagen.
“But it’s two-and-half years since I won a foreign Six Day – I’m very pleased.”
You’ve had good late season form, though?
“I’ve had a really good road season, when I look back, I’ve always managed to choose the right breakaways.
“I was happy with how I rode in Paris-Bourges and Paris-Tours.
“But I was good early season, too, getting in those breaks in the Flemish races.”
You didn’t give yourself much time to find your track legs.
“It was like that for my last Six Day in Copenhagen.
“I went straight from road training to the race. I think it’s because I’ve ridden so much track over the years that I naturally quickly adapt. I wouldn’t ride Six Days straight from the road if I didn’t think I could ride well in them.
“I spend time on the rollers beforehand of course, to get used to the bike and the higher cadence.
“I was pleased because I felt strong on the boards right from the first day.”
You’ve never ridden with Pim before, how long did it take for you to gel?
“I was a bit nervous, I’ve ridden the vast majority of my Six Days with Alex Rasmussen, I haven’t often ridden with others, so I wasn’t sure how our technique in the changes would be.
“The first night we took it easy with each other – but we built an understanding very quickly.
“I knew Pim to say ‘hello’ to but didn’t really know him well, so it was good to get to know him.
“He’s a good guy – a very honest rider.”
It was a strong field.
“It was one of the strongest Six Day pelotons for a while.
“The World Champions Van Hoecke/De Ketele were there; Stroetinga/Schep is a good pairing – and of course there was Keisse/Terpstra.
Iljo is very classy and is always good – and Terpstra was on the podium at Paris-Tours.
They were the guys who gave us most trouble – but it gives you satisfaction to win from a strong field.
With it being the first Six Day of the season, some of the guys needed find their best shape – but I feel it’s a big honour to win the opening race of the season.”
How was the atmosphere?
“I like to race in the Dutch Six Days, Rotterdam is good, too.
“In Amsterdam the track is not so big – but there were no bad nights as far as crowds went.
“The crowd thinned after the big madison each might, but that’s normal – people have work the next day.”
Since your spell in polka dots, do you think you’re better known in The Netherlands, now?
“I’m not sure, I’m looking forward to Copenhagen to see if it makes a difference with the fans, there.
“It was good to be paired with a local guy – it means you get more support; and Pim is well known, he was Netherlands road race champion.
“It was good for the motivation – and more fun when we won; you’re not just the foreign guy stealing the win.”
Do you give your Six Day bikes a big check over before the first Six.
“I always take care of my own bikes – after their last race at Copenhagen, and then again before I came to Amsterdam.
“But my mechanic, Dirk Dekeyser is excellent, I trust him completely with my bikes – he’s been my mechanic throughout my Six Day career.”
It must be difficult fitting in the Six Days with training camps and the early season races?
“I’ve still to discuss my programme with the team – I hope to ride in Rotterdam and Copenhagen; but I’ll have to see how that fits in with the team training camps.
“But I’m sure I can fit Copenhagen and give it my full focus.”
Saxo-Tinkoff will be stronger in the Classics for 2013.
“We have Matti Breschel and Daniele Benatti; Matti in particular is a very strong Classics rider.
“He was so strong in the 2009 Classics season and if he’s back to that level then he’ll be a contender for sure.
“He’ll be road captain – he reacts positively to that and the pressure and to the pressure of leadership.
“Maybe we’ll be viewed as underdogs but I think we have the potential for a good win in the spring.
“And it’s great to have Alberto back and in a position where we know where we stand and exactly what his programme will be, so we can build around that.”
And you’re on your winter break, now?
“Yes, my season finished last night.
“I have three weeks off the bike and then on November 12th, I have two weeks team-building with the squad.
“I spend most of my year travelling, so it’s nice to be at home in Denmark with friends and family for a while.”
And I have to ask – Lance?
“To be honest, I don’t care. It’s an old story, from a different time.
“It’s annoying and I can’t really have an opinion because it’s from another era – the sport just isn’t like that anymore. The young riders now just want to get on with their riding and racing – and leave all of that behind.”
We say ‘amen’ to that! Thanks to Michael for his time, and we’ll hook up with him again at Rotterdam.
Result - Amsterdam Six Day 2012
2 Iljo Keisse/Niki Terpstra (Bel/Ned) 228
@ 1 Lap
3 Wim Stroetinga/Peter Schep (Ned) 307
4 Gijs Van Hoecke/Kenny De Ketele (Bel) 300
@ 2 Laps
5 Yoeri Havik/Nick Stöpler (Ned) 199
@ 4 Laps
6 Robert Bartko/Jens Mouris (Ger/Ned) 142
@ 14 Laps
7 Barry Markus/Leon van Bon (Ned) 101
@ 17 Laps
8 Michael Vingerling/Geert-Jan Jonkman (Ned) 116
@ 20 Laps
9 Melvin Boskamp/Wesley Kreder (Ned) 107
@ 21 Laps
10 Cyrille Thièry/LoÏc Perizzolo (Swi) 94
@ 23 Laps
11 Nolan Hoffman/Marc Hester (RSA/Den) 178
@ 25 Laps
12 Morgan Kneisky/Roy Pieters (Fra/Ned) 88
@ 29 Laps
13 Jos Pronk/Leif Lampater (Ned/Ger) 131