If that had been all Michael did for his team during the race then it would have been enough – but he’s not a man to sit back and rest on his laurels. On the stage to le Cap d’Agde he made the break of the day and when there was too much ‘bitching’ in the escape decided to take the bull by the horns and went away on his own – only succumbing on the brutal ramp of Mont Saint-Clair in the closing stages.
We caught up with Michael again, on the second rest day to talk about another week of headline making by the man from Denmark.
PEZ: We were talking to you before the Cap d’Agde stage and could see that you were highly motivated.
Michael Morkov: It was a date I picked carefully, the fifth anniversary of my father’s death – I wanted to show myself and was prepared to dig deep.
When the break went, I was excited, there were some really good guys there – like Pineau and Ladagnous – and I thought we might make it all the way. But it was unfortunate because half of them wouldn’t ride and there was a lot of bitching, yaking and screaming, so I decided to go on my own.
To start with, I didn’t go full gas, I was hoping some of the guys would come across to me, but they didn’t and I did 50 kilometres alone. I felt really strong, really emotional – people who understand sport know that if you’re emotions are in control then you can do so much more.
Morkov at the back of the break on the way to Agde – just before he attacked them for a massive solo effort.
PEZ: We heard you say you were producing ‘crazy’ watts, that day.
MM: When I was out alone, I was producing 400 watts all the time, I was going really strongly. I was actually gaining time on the peloton; I took the gap up from 2:00 to 3:20 – but I blew on the climb of Saint-Clair.
PEZ: How were the legs, next day?
MM: I wasn’t too bad – it was more two days later (the stage won by Pierrick Fedrigo) where I suffered.
PEZ: The stage where you suffered, there were politics involved, weren’t there?
MM: It was taking Nicki a long time to bridge; they didn’t want him to get up. We told Bjarne what we thought – that if they wouldn’t let Nicki get on the break then the whole Saxo team would ride to bring the break back.
He agreed and eventually they eased up and let Nicki get up to them. But in the break they were saying to him; ‘we let you get up so you have to agree not to attack us!’
I was so proud of the team that day; we’ve raced hard in this Tour and been in every break, we missed that one but the team was behind Nicki.
PEZ: Has the crash situation settled down?
MM: Yeah, but that’s normal – but there are 40 guys less, now. This is my first Tour but I’ve watched it on TV in previous years and I don’t think there were any more crashes, this year. Guys are tired, so there’s less fighting for position, now.
PEZ: We saw you quoted as saying you’d like Matti Breschel back at Saxo-Tinkoff?
MM: Matti is a good friend, I raced with him for two years and rode the Worlds with him – he’s a very good captain
I won’t say it was the wrong thing for him to do in going to Rabobank – I think if you stay with the same team it can be a problem; it’s good to get experience of other ways of doing things. He’s had a lot of injury problems and suffered to get back in to shape.
But a Dane on a Danish team will always get the best treatment.
PEZ: Did you get your rest day cake, today?
MM: No, I was really disappointed that we didn’t get our coffee stop. We did a loop and suddenly we were back here at the hotel.
I really enjoy getting away from all the stress of the race on the rest day.
One part of the race that certainly isn’t stressful is collecting prizes and kissing pretty girls – Michael had the pleasure of doing that a lot in the first week.
PEZ: Tell us about what you eat on the Tour Michael.
MM: For breakfast I’ll have porridge and rice. We have the chef from one of the world’s most exclusive restaurants with us – Noma (the Copenhagen restaurant has been rated the best in the world for the third year running.)
All of the food is organic, so it’s very expensive. Bjarne’s wife is our dietician and she works really closely with the catering staff to ensure we have the correct oils, fats and protein.
When you get tired you tend to think about eating stuff that’s not so good for you – burgers, Nutella, white bread . . .
But when the team is going to so much trouble to keep your diet correct, you don’t feel like you want to eat stuff like that. Most nights we have chicken and another meat – we have pasta but it’s the brown wholegrain, not the white stuff. And we have a different salad every day.
We’ve had duck and lamb chops, too – they were the best meat I’ve ever had in my life.
Bjarne knows how to look after his riders bringing all that is necessary for some great food – including a world class chef!
PEZ: What about race food?
MM: I don’t like the old school little sandwiches, I find bread difficult to digest in a race. I use energy bars and also compressed bars of dried fruit and nuts – I find those very good. I tend not to take too many gels – only a few if I need to, in the finale.
If it’s hot you drink a bottle every 20 k or so to keep your salts and minerals correct.
PEZ: What are your thoughts on the incident with the tacks?
MM: None of us had punctures; it was the first guys over who had the problems.
It’s a scary thing, really, really dangerous; a tack could stick in your tyre at the start of the descent and explode on the way down.
PEZ: You still have a full team in the race; that must be good for morale?
MM: Our morale is very high; we came into this race with no big ambitions and we were all feeling a little afraid. But we have top ten placings, led king of the mountains and been involved in the race. It’s a really nice group of guys, there’s no ‘black sheep’ – there’s a happy atmosphere with plenty of joking going on.
Morale is still high at the team – thanks in part must go to the great riding from Morkov and Sorensen.
PEZ: The Pyrenees?
MM: For me, it’s survival, hanging in the wheels.
But my team mate, Chris Anker Sorensen is a really good climber and looking forward to having a crack in the Pyrenees. (Sorensen finished second to Voeckler on stage 17) My next day is Friday, stage 19, 220 K from Blagnac to Brive-La-Gaillarde.
PEZ: What do you think about the Wiggins/Froome situation?
MM: I think a lot comes from the press, Wiggins is the captain; Froome has developed a lot but Wiggins is strongest – he showed that in the time trial. You have to be impressed with how Sky are riding, they lost Siutsou and Cavendish and Eisel can’t help in mountains – they’re very strong.
PEZ: You’ve been in the break for 813.5 kilometres; have you thought about going for the 1,000?
MM: If I can get in the break from kilometre zero on Friday, it could be job done!
Michael will be looking at showing the peloton his back again tomorrow as he tries to make the day’s breakaway.