Sunday, November 28, 2021
HomeInterviewsMichael Mørkøv - "Flanders Was Nice, Wevelgem and Dwars Door were Hell!"

Michael Mørkøv – “Flanders Was Nice, Wevelgem and Dwars Door were Hell!”


Michael Mørkøv
Michael Mørkøv.

We spoke to Heinrich Haussler prior to his fine sixth place in ‘de Ronde’ – but we thought it would be good to speak to a man who was in the thick of the action on Sunday, across those cruel cobbles and over the brutal bergs. Step forward Saxo-Tinkoff’s Michael Mørkøv; team pursuit flyer, Six Day star, polka dot jersey wearer and Classics escape artist.

But it was harder for Michael to pull of one of his Houdini specials on Sunday. The race started at a rate of knots, just too rapid for the early break to go. But eventually our man, in the company of six others, grabbed a little daylight.

Before we chat to him about his day out in the Flemish Ardennes, let’s have wee look back over his palmares.


He 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 2006 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 2008 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.

Michael Mørkøv
Alex and Michael in the jerseys of World Madison Champions, during the Gent Six.

His Grand Tour debut came in 2010 in the Giro where a young Saxo team performed strongly, and 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 (but later disallowed) win in the Giro d’Italia. There were wins too in Danish criteriums; a close second to Elia Viviani in a stage of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado and a fine top 20 finish in the World Road Race Championship in his home city of Copenhagen.

Last season, 2012, saw him as ‘man of the match’ in most of the early season Classics, infiltrating the best breaks and grabbing that vital TV time; wear the polka dot jersey of king of the mountains for the first week of the Tour de France; dip under four minutes with his Danish team pursuit squad at the London Olympics and win the Amsterdam Six Day with Pim Ligthart.

Michael Mørkøv
Five years after his dad passed away, Michael wanted to get on the podium for him. He did that plenty in last year’s Tour.
Michael Mørkøv
Lasse Norman Hansen and Michael celebrate.

This season began with another win in the Six Days of Copenhagen, this time paired with Olympic Omnium Champion, Lasse Norman.

He’s been quieter than normal over the cobbles this year, but his greyhound build isn’t the best for the Siberian conditions which have plagued early season Euro racing, and we caught up with him on the Tuesday evening after Cancellara had broken 200 hard men’s hearts.

It took a long time for the break to go on Sunday, Michael.

“Too long!

“At the start of a race like Flanders half the peloton is thinking that their best chance is to ahead of the race in an early breakaway.”

The peloton didn’t cut you much slack.

“The most we had was 3:45 the fact that it took so long for us to get away was a major problem – we were all pretty dead after battling so hard to get out there.

“I mean we worked well together but we were tired and there wasn’t enough time to build a lead before the peloton started to position itself for the first of the climbs.”

What was the Saxo-Tinkoff tactic?

“We believed we could get Matti Breschel ‘up there’ and the plan was to have a guy in the early break to be there for the first time into the Kwaremont to help with positioning for Matti.

“Matti is in good shape but I think he has a little to go before he’s back as strong as he was in 2010.

“But it’s good to have him back as our team leader for the Classics and on Sunday in Paris-Roubaix, he’ll be a little stronger, again.”

You’re very lean; this icy weather can’t be helping you?

“Sunday was quite nice, it was sunny and not as cold – but Wevelgem and Dwars Door were Hell!

“All winter we fight to stay skinny and get lean – and then you get weather like we’ve had . . .”

Michael Mørkøv
The recent weather isn’t much fun for any bike rider, let alone ‘skinny pros’. Photo©Jered Gruber

Riders have been telling me that it’s very hard to eat in the bad conditions.

“You have to force yourself to eat; it’s the guys who dress properly for the conditions and who eat and drink enough who are up there on days like we’ve had.

“When you have on a rain jacket and big gloves it’s hard to even get the food from your pockets. I’ve been loading food the night before and on the morning of the race and then using mainly gels in the race.

“It’s better if you can eat energy bars and sandwiches; but with the gels you can put them in the leg of your shorts and it’s easy to just bit the top of and swallow them.”

You were DNF on Sunday.

“I had to fight hard to get in the break and then I rode in the break – after that I helped position Matti for the first climb of the Kwaremont and then I was finished.

“It’s never good to not finish but there are times when it’s more sensible to get back to bus and start to recover than to just finish for the sake of it.”

Matti was 25th – was he happy with that?

“No, he was hoping for top ten – him and the team.

“But it was good to see him sprinting for that placing – showing spirit, still fighting.”

I thought Daniele Bennati may have done a ride – he was second in the GP Nobili, recently.

“He was good at Milan-Sanremo and the E3 but wasn’t feeling well on Sunday – he’s pulled the plug, isn’t riding Paris-Roubaix and is going home to recover.”

Are you happy with your own form?

“You expect a hard time going in to these races and try to peak for them but I don’t think I got it quite right, this year.

“The Classics were my first goal of the year – and then the Tour de France. I trained a little different this winter from last, I have new coach and we’ve been focusing more on shorter, more intense efforts.

“I have the endurance so it’s the top end we’ve been working on – I’ve no doubt we’ll get there, but sometimes it takes a season or two to get the result.”

Michael Mørkøv
Hopefully we’ll see more of Michael on the Tour podium this summer.

No track Worlds in Minsk for you.

“No, but with them moving the track Worlds forward it may be possible, next year – for team pursuit and madison – just before the Classics season.

“But it would take careful planning and the consent of the team, of course.”

You mentioned Milan-Sanremo earlier, how bad was it?

“We knew that the weather would be bad and you have to respect the organisers for neutralizing it and letting us go by bus through the snow – it was just too dangerous to ride.

“I’d bet that every rider in that race, when they got on the bus, said; “that’s it – I’m not going back out to race in that!”

“But after you had a shower, warmed up and got dry clothes you felt better – and it wasn’t so cold on the Riviera, it was a little milder and only raining! My legs were frozen, dead and it’s very hard to start racing again after they’ve felt like that.”

Saxo has recruited some good guys, this year.

“Yes, we have Nicolas Roche, Roman Kreuziger, Oliver Zaugg – they’ve all fitted in well.

“And Daniele Bennati, he’s a really good guy.”

Paris-Roubaix; can Cancellara be beaten?


“It’ll be hard to beat him after that show he put on in Flanders on Sunday!

“But we hope that Matti will show. Roubaix is the race where you get the biggest benefit from being in the breakaway – when you watch on TV the shit that happens in the peloton.”

What now for you?

“After Paris-Roubaix I’ll have a bit of a rest then ride Frankfurt, California, Suisse – and hopefully the Tour de France . . .”

Goals for the rest of the season?

“Like I said, to ride the Tour and to be in the Saxo-Tinkoff team for the World TTT championship; I think we could field a good team for that race.”

Michael Mørkøv
Having relinquished his KoM lead earlier in the race, Michael was nevertheless in the first big group on the Col de Peyresourde on Stage 16 of last year’s Tour. Photo©Martin Williamson
Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

Gorik Gardeyn – “I feel I am coming from the dark back into the light”

Belgian professional Gorik Gardeyn’s name has been a familiar one in the European peloton for over a decade – but for season 2012 he’ll be signing on for events on the other side of the globe, as well as the ‘old continent.’ The 31 year-old has just signed for Chinese Pro Continental team Champion System.

Dan Patten Blog: The Run-In is Approaching…

Well we've hit September and so the final month or so of the season for the Dan Patten Blog. The good news is I'm still feeling motivated to race and race hard to finish off the year. The bad news is the last few weeks I've been caught out with a bit of illness that seems to be going round these parts at the moment, and which has proved hard to shake off.

Grote Prijs Gemeente Beveren 2007

It's long been a puzzle to me - who actually works in Flanders? It's 11.30am at Beveren Waas on a Monday, two hours until the start and the Grote Prijs Gemeente Beveren race HQ is already heaving. Officials from the federation and all the participating clubs, mechanics, masseurs, mums, dads, girlfriends, sponsors and of course, riders; 196 of them. People have their priorities right here, and work isn't one of them - it comes somewhere after bike racing, family and doing what you enjoy.

James Spragg – Back in the Groove with Strong European Results

“James Spragg,” now there’s a name which hasn’t appeared in our pages for a while - but he’s back in harness and doing nicely thank you with some solid performances. We first came across James back in 2010 when he rode for the Qin Cycling Team and he's with Continental Team, Champion System for 2015 and back in the groove with some good results – like 10th on GC in the recent Baltic Chain stage race in Estonia.

Mario Willems – Most Successful Kermis Rider This Season

"Ed! All this Tour de France nonsense - you should be talking to Mario Willems, he's the top man in the Flanders kermis' right now!"

Jake Stewart – Second in u23 Gent – Wevelgem 2018

‘Jake Stewart, Great Britain?’ Second in the u23 Gent-Wevelgem and third in the Trofeo Piva in Italy, strong results – but we know that name... Ah! Yes, he and Fred Wright won the Berlin Six u23 race in 2017 and VeloVeritas was their official photographer for the day best have a word with the man...

At Random

Grant Ferguson – a Superb Start to 2015 with 13th in the Herald Sun Tour

Grant Ferguson is better known for his cyclo-cross and MTB activities but he took an excellent 13th place on GC in Australia’s oldest stage race – The Herald Sun Tour which was won in it’s 62nd year by Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEDGE. Ferguson was just one second behind Serge Pauwels (MTN) in 12th place and seven seconds away from former Italian Champion Franco Pellizotti (Androni) in ninth spot. The Peebles man stayed on ‘down under’ for some warm weather training but gave us a shout when he got back to his base in tropical ... Sheffield.

Israel’s First Pro Cycling Team to turn Pro-Continental in 2017

Following two seasons in the Continental rank, Israel’s only pro team: Cycling Academy Team, is planning to make the move to the Pro-Continental ranks in 2017. Team aims to compete in the Tour of California and the Classics in 2017, eyeing a Gran-Tour debut in 2018. Team is currently negotiating with several key riders and technical partners.

Scottish Riders in Le Tour de France

With le Grande Boucle set to depart on Saturday June 26th from Brittany – which shares Celtic culture with Scotland - we thought we should have a look at the Scottish riders who have participated in the biggest race on the planet, over the years.

Joanna Rowsell – On the Olympic Build-up

As the world is gripped by Tour Fever, it’s easy to forget that just days after the Champs Elysees protocols are done and dusted, it’ll be time for the Olympic Games, in London. VeloVeritas was lucky enough to get an interview with a lady who’s been an integral part of the dominant GB ladies team pursuit squad.

Mark McNally – Everything geared to the Tour of Britain

The summer is coming to an end so it must be time for Madison-Genesis rider Mark McNally to come to form... McNally is a product of the British ‘cycling academy’ system and was a member of the winning team in the European junior team pursuit championship in 2007 and European U23 team pursuit championship in 2008.

Od Designs “TrackStand” will see action at the Rio Olympics

Earlier this year, Od Designs' Steve Marsden was approached by Sandy Gilchrist, the Specialized Team mechanic and Ireland Track Team coach, to see if he could develop a better bike stand than was already commercially available. After discussing his requirements, Steve set-to and in short time had the basis of what Od Designs have named the "TrackStand".