I’ve not shed tears of joy at many bike races but I did in November 2009; I was ‘runner’ for Danish pair, Alex Rasmussen and Michael Mørkøv at the Gent Six Day and ‘my boys’ took the last sprint of the race and overall victory with the rainbow jerseys on their backs as World Madison Champions. A special night.
Alex has retired and is now Zwift ambassador for Scandinavia but Michael has just gone and done it again – World Madison Champion, this time with 2012 Olympic Omnium Champion, Lasse Norman Hansen. Michael is three times and reigning Elite Danish Road Race Champion, a Grand Tour stage winner and ‘Classics Man’ of note – but his roots are deep into those hardwood boards.
Multiple Danish Champion on the track, European Champion and now three time World Champion – Michael was part of the winning Danish team pursuit squad at the 2009 Worlds. He’s has always been happy to give of his time to me and I had to catch up with him after his latest triumph.
Congratulations, Michael – is it fair to say that the journey back to this title has it’s roots in that UCI madison you and Lasse won in Bordeaux back at the end of 2018 to begin the qualification process for Tokyo?
“Even before that, I was climbing l’Alpe d’Huez in the 2017 Dauphine and getting my ass kicked but I’d recently heard the announcement that the madison was on the Olympic programme and I thought to myself that I needed to aim at that – something where I could win instead of getting my ass kicked like this!”
I checked the stats on you and Lasse’s winning ride; you scored in 13 of the 20 points sprints in the race with six sprint wins and wins in three of the first four sprints – was the tactic to go early?
“No, we were going to wait until deeper into the race but after 15 laps Lasse sneaked away and got a small gap, I maintained it but wasn’t going deep, we held a half lap advantage for 30 laps, taking the sprint points then we joined the peloton and took the lap and the 20 bonus points – by 40 laps in we had 36 points.
“The New Zealand team were second with a final 33 points so by that 40 lap stage we pretty much had the race won – we finished on an eventual 62 points.”
The average speed of the race was 58.754 kph – that’s crazy fast.
“That’s reflected in the fact that we took the only lap of the race – if you look at the arithmetic it means our speed was touching 59 kph for the race.”
Lasse and you have connected very strongly.
“We don’t get the opportunity to ride together very often but since we started our Olympic project we’ve won every race we’ve ridden – the Bordeaux madison you mentioned, the Paris World Cup, the Europeans, the Minsk World Cup and now the Worlds.”
Can I ask what gear you rode?
“I’d rather not say, but I know that some teams were on as big as 58×15; the gears are so heavy with some teams that when it comes to the sprint they can’t ‘lift it,’ they’re bogged down on the big ratio.”
It’s hard to believe it’s 11 years since you last won this race.
“Yeah, 2009, the next year the Worlds were on our home track at Ballerup, Copenhagen; Alex and I wanted to defend on out home track but I sustained a knee injury and we finished outside of the medals.”
You had the family behind you at Berlin, I noticed.
“Yes, my mother, brothers, wife and kids were all there. I booked 25 seats for us, Berlin is the closest track for us outside of Denmark.
“It may be my last track Worlds so it was a big dream to have them all there with me.”
A great Sunday for Deceuninck with Kasper Asgreen’s win in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne too.
“Yes, I watched the recorded highlights of Kasper’s race on TV – that was a really impressive performance he put in.”
Has the Danish Media made a fuss over your performance?
“Yes, but I think it’s had much more impact because it’s mixed up with my quarantine and all the Coronavirus stuff and the Olympics coming up.
“I had six minutes live on CNN the other day.”
You were at the heart of all that, weren’t you?
“I abandoned the UAE Tour after Stage Four, as planned, flew to Berlin and was there in time to watch the Danish team pursuit guys winning their gold medal.
“Then the UAE Tour was cancelled, the ‘Corona’ story broke and I decided to stay in my room in Berlin, I didn’t feel like going to the track.
“Then we heard that fortunately it was mechanics who had been found positive for Corona in UAE, the doctor examined me and I was given the all clear – I feel like I was super lucky to get to compete given what was been happening with guys still in quarantine in the UAE.”
Paris-Nice for you now?
“Yes, I’m in Paris we’re going to ride but are obviously taking all appropriate precautions.
“But really, no one knows how it’s going to pan out. I think because it’s been given a name, ‘Corona’ is makes it more sinister.
“When I was in my hotel in Berlin my wife went to pick up our boy at kindergarten and there was a guy giving my wife hassle because he said I was infected and in quarantine and she shouldn’t be there – crazy!
“After Paris-Nice I have De Panne and Gent-Wevelgem, the ‘sprinters races’ and I’m supposed to be riding the Tour of Turkey in April but no one is sure how that’s going to turn out with all that’s going on.”
I guess ‘it’s all for Tokyo’ now?
“Absolutely, Olympic gold has always been my dream and Sunday’s win makes that dream seem even more possible.”
With thanks to Michael for his time and insights, we wish him well for his forthcoming races and of course, that big day in Tokyo.