We spoke to Jesper Morkov about his ride in the Four days of Grenoble; so it’s only fair that we don’t neglect big brother Michael Morkov who recently rode his first six day in nearly a year, in Rotterdam.
Morkov and long term partner, Alex Rasmussen – recently back from a spell in the wilderness courtesy UCI double standards – were third behind the brilliant winning QuickStep duo of Iljo Keisse/Niki Terpstra and hardcore Belgians Kenny De Ketele/Jasper De Buyst.
Morkov has a long history on the boards:
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 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 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.
His Grand Tour debut came in 2010 in the Giro where a young Saxo team performed strongly. 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.
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.
En route to the win at the 2013 Copenhagen Six.
The 2013 season debuted with another win in the Six Days of Copenhagen with Olympic omnium champion, Lasse Norman. But he was quieter than normal over the spring cobbles, his greyhound build not best to the Siberian conditions which plagued early season Euro racing. The second half of the season however, saw a resurgent Morkov with a fine sprint win in the Danish Elite Road Race Championship; another beautifully timed sprint to win a Vuelta stage and finally a podium in Paris-Tours.
Not a bad season after all!
Michael taking his historic Vuelta stage win after Tony Martin’s day long solo break was swept up in the final meters.
We caught up with him just a day or two after Rotterdam at the Saxo-Tinkoff training camp on Gran Canaria.
PEZ: It must be nice to back riding with Alex?
Yes, definitely, we have a lot of history together – there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s the best partner for me. It was nice to get on the podium in such a high quality field. When you have a field like that it makes getting a result all the more prestigious. There were good crowds, the live streaming of the race was a success; everything about the race was positive.
PEZ: It didn’t take you long to find your track legs?
No, despite the fact that it’s a year since my last six day in Copenhagen – and two years for Alex. Unfortunately we’re not a regular part of the six day peloton anymore, which makes it all the harder. But we got used to it pretty quickly; I thought we weren’t so sharp for the first three days but we were getting stronger over the last three days.
PEZ: Alex has been riding team pursuit for Denmark in the World Cups – is that good preparation for a six?
Yes, there’s a lot of endurance training as part of your team pursuit build up, so that’s not really a problem.
PEZ: What do you think of the plywood track in Rotterdam?
You don’t feel a big difference, you’d think it may be slippery but it’s not. The only thing is here the plywood boards butt into each other, there’s a bump which is particularly noticeable the lower down the track you ride in the corners.
PEZ: What was your last night game plan?
At the end we were pretty close to De Ketele/De Buyst on points – we didn’t think we could take a lap from Keisse/Terpstra so we tried to keep close to the Belgians, but in the end Keisse/Terpstra were too strong and we didn’t get the sprint points to beat the Belgians.
Normally I wouldn’t be happy with third but when I thought about it, with this being our first six day together for a long time and the quality of the field, I can’t be too disappointed.
PEZ: The live streaming seems to have been well received?
It was impressive, yes – I think it’s maybe a life line for the six days. The production was good and I think that in the future it’s possible that people would be happy to pay to watch the racing on the computer.
I got a lot of feedback on Facebook about the race – normally no one knows what’s going on at the six days and the riders themselves have to pass the information back to the their friends and fans but this was a new experience – really impressive.
PEZ: And still on the trusty Dolan?
Yes, three years ago Specialized didn’t do track frames so I went for the Dolan and have been with it ever since. I’m on Specialized on the road, obviously but there aren’t a lot of changes to the team road machines for 2014.
PEZ: There were quite a few guys on the TTT bars – don’t you fancy them?
They’re not legal in World Cups or the World Championships; I don’t think it’s cool that they should be ridden in the six days. I think that UCI will come down on it in the six days – and besides it ruins the look of a bike to my eye.
PEZ: I liked the colour coordinated helmet, mitts, shorts, socks and shoes . . .
Well, you have to honour the Danish national colours!
PEZ: That jersey was a bit loose on you though – I knew you wouldn’t like that.
That’s true, they always make the jerseys ‘large’ – which is fine if you’re a big guy like Alex but I could really use a small.
PEZ: And this is your second training camp of the winter?
The first camp was our ‘meeting’ camp; but at this one we’re averaging four or five hours each day on the bike with good sets of intervals included in the rides.
Michael in his new look Tinkoff-Saxo Danish Champion’s kit.
PEZ: How’s the programme looking?
Pretty similar to previous years: the Copenhagen Six Day, the Tours of Qatar and Oman, Paris-Nice and then into the Cobbled Classics which are my first objective of the year. I’ve improved a little every year and second place in Paris-Tours has given me the belief that I can be right up there in a Classic – and of course there’s the motivation of riding in the national champion’s jersey.
PEZ: The famous “pair number 7” return to Copenhagen – a lot of pressure?
Of course, there’s always pressure in your home six day but you expect that. We’ve been riding in the pair number 7 jersey since 2008 so we’re used to it. It’s the pressure we put on ourselves that’s important – we want to do our best for ourselves and our fans.