Is Katusha’s former Danish Elite Road Champion Michael Mørkøv the unluckiest man in Paris-Roubaix?
Puncturing out of the break from which Matt Hayman went on to win the race…
Mørkøv is in good shape; top 10 in a brutal Gent-Wevelgem and top 20 in the Three Days of De Panne despite being at the service of Katusha team leader, Alex Kristoff.
Who’s to say how he would have fared had he not deflated on the cruel pavé?
VeloVeritas spoke to former Vuelta stage winner, World Madison Champion, Olympic medallist and Six Day star just before the Hell of the North, here’s what Michael had to tell us;
Have you turned Belgian yet Michael, with all this time you’re spending in the Flatlands?
“No, I’m still Danish but I love to stay here.
“We’ve been staying in Kortijk, it’s a nice city and the people are nice here too.”
Gent-Wevelgem looked super tough – you took 10th.
“My race went like I hoped it would but we didn’t have Alex Kristoff, he was sick so we had no leader – that meant it gave to rest of us in the team our chance to ride our own race.
“I hung in there and was at the head of the race when it exploded and the racing really started.”
But no Copenhagen Six Day for you in 2016…
“No ‘home’ Six for me, no.
“I had to miss that because I was riding the Tour of Qatar; it was the first time in 10 years, but on the other hand my brother, Jesper won the race with Alex Rasmussen – which was nice – and Qatar set me up to have the good spring I’m having right now.”
Do you think the desert races are essential preparation for the northern spring races?
“I don’t know if I’d say ‘essential’ but it’s clear that it’s a better place to be than in the cold of North Europe.
“The thing with them is that you have to go with how the race unfolds; you obviously can’t predict that – when you’re training you can customise your training.
“That said the races are very good preparation, they give you speed but not strength – however I gained in that department when I rode Paris-Nice.”
You rode that dramatic Milan-Sanremo, what was your role?
“The expectation on me wasn’t so high as I perhaps didn’t ride at my best in Paris-Nice but I came out of it in good shape.
“My job was to ride before the Cipressa for Alex but I felt good and strong enough to ride for him on the Poggio too – if I’d saved just a little I think I could have pulled in the sprint, too.”
You rode well in De Panne too, top 20 – that first stage looked rapid.
“There are no easy races in Belgium; De Panne was tough from kilometre zero with it splitting and echelons forming all day – a demanding day.
“Days two and three were a bit more controlled because they were going to end in sprint finishes but my shape for this spring is my best ever for this time of year.
“Going to the Katusha team has been good for me – I’ve bloomed!”
How was de Ronde – you were 29th…
“The Koppenberg was very slippery and I ended up having to walk but my team mate Marco Haller helped me back and I was with the favourites on the Oude Kwaremont for the last time.
“I did a lot of work in trying to pull that break of Sagan and Kwiatkowski back…”
When’s your Roubaix reconnaissance?
“We do that on Thursday after the Scheldeprijs.
“The Scheldeprijs can be very dangerous but less so if you’re at the front racing for the win and avoiding the crashes behind.
“This will be my fifth Paris-Roubaix, it’s a really special race, it’s beautiful but I used to hate it, with the risk of crashing and injury but these last couple of years I look forward to it, I understand it now.
“The Arenberg Forest is the most difficult section, really bad but luckily it’s early so it’s usually not decisive.”
Can Alex win in Roubaix?
“His shape is getting better and he’s timed it nicely to peak for Roubaix – he’s very strong and will be going for the win. [Kristoff would eventually finish 48th on the day with Michael 50th].”
What will be the bike be for the pavé?
“I’ll ride my Canyon Ultimate rather than my aero bike, I’ll be on my usual Zipp wheels, 28 mm tyre on the front, 30 mm on the back – the bike has enough clearance for them and I’ll ride 44/53 chainrings.”
There seems so little between the top guys these days.
“Those are my thoughts, the levels are so close and the decisions so narrow, it’s not like the days when we were all waiting on Boonen and Cancellara making their move.
“Sagan is obviously very strong but there other guys winning a lot more – there’s more than just one or two strong men.”
“I’ll have a rest after Roubaix then it’s the Tour of Yorkshire, California, Suisse and Tour de France.”
What goals did you set for this season?
“I’ve achieving them right now; to be a strong helper for Alex in the spring races – and then in the Tour de France.
“The Olympics isn’t on my list, the parcours is too hilly for me and the Olympic track requires too much time for qualification – and there’s not really disciplines in the programme which suit me.
“The road Worlds in Qatar is something that interests me though…”