PEZ: They say you feel stronger after your first Grand Tour, Michael?
Michael Morkov: I feel different at the end of this season to the way I felt at the end of last season – there’s no doubt that once I’d recovered from the Giro, I felt stronger.
I was happy with my Worlds and I’m just back from a three week break after Paris-Tours.
I started training three weeks later, this year – at the start of November.
PEZ: And you’ve moved to Tuscany, from Luxembourg?
MM: There are eight or ten Danes in Tuscany, it’s good to be able to train with friends; the weather is good and there are lots of opportunities for training in the hills.
I have to improve my climbing if I am to achieve my goal of being a good stage race rider.
PEZ: How’s the mood in Saxo Bank with the exodus?
MM: We pretty much knew who was going to go for a while so there were no big surprises.
We knew the Schlecks were going to go and it wasn’t difficult to calculate who was going to go with them.
The team handled it well, they just let go who ever wanted to go – I don’t know specifics but they were offering such big money that it was difficult for riders to refuse the offers.
I’ve followed Bjarne Riis management since he set up CSC and it’s always exciting to see what he does with his team, he’s great at taking riders who are maybe considered as coming to the end of their careers and lifting them back up – I think we’ll see good things from Nick Nuyens; and Matteo Tosatto is a hugely experienced rider to bring to the team.
And of course, we still have Richey Porte.
And Alberto . . ?
PEZ: Bjarne seems like a hard man to get to know?
MM: He’s a nice person but he does take a bit of getting to know; I think a lot of that is to do with the pressure he’s under, there’s always so much going on, meetings, people wanting to talk to him – you can see he always has things on his mind.
PEZ: How are the Danish media with him?
MM: The last few years they have generally been supportive of him, prior to that there was negative publicity about his past.
But CSC and Saxo Bank are teams that Danish people are proud of; Saxo is probably the biggest team in Danish sport and Bjarne is one of the biggest names.
PEZ: How big is cycling in Denmark?
MM: Football and hand ball are big but cycling is a big sport too, people think it’s a cool sport and the country has always had good bike riders.
PEZ: Alex Rasmussen is going his own way, to HTC.
MM: We didn’t race on the same teams before Saxo, so it’s not that big a deal – it’s maybe awkward for the six days because you have to try and fit in with the programme of two teams, not just one.
PEZ: How is your 2011 programme shaping?
MM: I have to finalise it with Brad McGee but I’ll be riding the Spring Classics – I’m looking forward to that.
It takes four or five years to learn how to ride these races but you have to start somewhere.
PEZ: They say that; ‘the Spring Classics are won in November.’
MM: I’ve heard that expression and maybe that’s true for the guys who ride them every year; but I’m just starting out.
PEZ: Isn’t it difficult combining track with road?
MM: It depends when it is, you certainly need good foundation for the sixes and that comes from the road.
Like I was saying, I’ve only been training for three weeks after a three week break; I did two weeks road then more intense work on the track for one week at Ballerup, Copenhagen – I didn’t want my ass kicked, here at Gent!
PEZ: What were the high lights of 2010 for you?
MM: To finish the Giro was hugely satisfying.
I was also pleased with 4th on GC in the Tour of Limousin.
I rode some good time trials during this season; you have to be a good time trial rider if you have GC ambitions.
MM: The biggest one was not riding the Vuelta; I would have loved to ride with Fabian, the Schlecks and Stuey O’Grady.
PEZ: That opening TTT was pretty spectacular.
MM: The TTT is something we always pay attention to at training camps and practice; but I think that Garmin, HTC and Sky practice it the most – practice is OK, but you need the strong riders!
PEZ: Is there a Saxo ‘survival’ camp, this season?
MM: It’s in Fuerteventura and more like three days of exercises with the emphasis being on water activities – long swims, surfing, sailing. .
We’ll be sleeping in a hotel – I’ll miss the survival camp; in Denmark we still have national service in the military but not everyone has to go, you’re selected by lottery and I didn’t have to go, but I’d have liked to experience it and the survival camp was military in the way it was run.
PEZ: Do you do much other ‘off bike’ training?
MM: I do gym work to make my back, stomach and arms stronger – it’s nice to do something else, I tried running but it gave me a sore back.
PEZ: Which aspects of your cycling will you be trying to improve, this winter?
MM: I’m ambitious, I want to be a GC rider and for that you need to be good in the time trial, I’ve improved there but want to build that ability year on year.
Year one with the team was good because I didn’t have to stress about results, each year you have to work at making yourself stronger, it takes a few years before you can talk about being top ten in this race or that race.
I think I won’t be at my peak until I’m 28/29 – but I’d be happy to surprise myself!
If you look at the best riders they’ve got there by getting that little bit better every year.
PEZ: Are you worried about the state of the sixes?
MM: We’ve lost the German races; and Risi’s retiring hasn’t helped.
He was such a spectacular guy, you’d think you almost had him – and then he’d launch this incredible attack.
I miss the big fights that Alex and I used to have with Bruno and Franco.
The ‘new Risi’ is hard to talk about – I think I’m still one of the ‘young group’ of riders who are coming up.
PEZ: And Saxo Bank is still a ‘happy home’ for you?
MM: The last two years have been incredible, the team, the races, the travel – all perfect.
With thanks to Michael, we’ll be there to witness more of his six day adventures as the winter progresses.