Rider Interview: One of the most moving stories from the 2022 Tour de France was at the back of the race. Recognised as the best ‘lead-out man’ in the WorldTour, Michael Mørkøv fought to stay in the race through sickness, hot weather and the fastest Tour in History. He lost his battle against the time limit, but only after a big fight. Ed Hood caught up with Michael to hear all about it.
Tour’22 team’s presentation in Copenhagen
The 2022 Tour de France was a memorable one, packed with dramas, one which for me was particularly poignant came on Stage 15 when Quick Steps’s famous Dane, Michael Mørkøv missed the time cut and his Tour ended. He’s renowned as the best lead out man in the world and he’s not a man who quits many races – we needed to know more about what had happened and a few days after the Tour finished we caught up with the man to discuss his 2022 Tour de France:
PEZ: It must have been a wonderful experience to start the biggest race in the world in your home city of Copenhagen?
Michael Mørkøv: It was truly amazing and I feel very lucky to have been part of it – the public support was massive; an extraordinary turn out with an estimated two million people roadside.
Copenhagen – Michael Mørkøv stage 1 time trial
PEZ: A great start for Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl with Yves Lampaert winning the Stage One time test, was that something Yves or the team expected?
No, for us and for Yves it was a big surprise, he’s a time trial specialist but our realistic expectation was a top 10 finish. But he hit the jackpot, it was his day – it wasn’t the favourites day. I was very happy for him and it was great to have the maillot jaune at the Stage Two roll out.
Tour’22. Stage 2 win for Jakobsen
PEZ: Then you won Stage Two with Fabio?
It was great but I couldn’t give him my best job in the lead out because I’d had to make a big effort to bring Yves back to the peloton after his crash on the bridge and I didn’t have the freshest of legs. I did put Fabio in the best position I could though. There was a lot of stress in that final but luckily it was a head wind on the bridge and there was no point in anyone trying to attack.
The final kilometre of stage 2
PEZ: I read you were ‘disappointed’ that Fabio didn’t win Stage Three?
Ever since I knew the Tour was going to be in Denmark I’ve been dreaming of leading my sprinter out to victory on home roads. The last five or six kilometres the team set up the lead-out perfectly; coming in to the last corner I was on Florian Senechal’s wheel with Fabio on my wheel – but on that last, corner Fabio was squeezed off my wheel without me knowing.
In my head I was already visualising Fabio’s victory; but then I looked back between my legs and saw a pair of yellow front forks – our team’s bikes don’t have yellow forks. . .
It went wrong on stage 3
PEZ: Stage 15 and the day, ‘the Tour left you.’
On the Friday night/Saturday morning I got sick, running a fever – that day was a very fast stage but I buried myself to get through it. On the Sunday morning I felt better but as soon as we started I could feel I was empty. There was a break from the start but the peloton wouldn’t let it go, it was very fast and I was dropped after 15 kilometres – I knew it was going to be a long day. But I was determined to finish, the time limit was extended because of the heat and I was managing to keep a good speed – with the broom wagon right behind me. They came up and emptied water over me from time to time to cool me. With 80 kilometres to go it looked possible that I’d make it but the speed of the peloton was very high and then the last 40 kilometres it was a head wind.
Michael Mørkøv’s heroic ride
PEZ: The race’s main man, Monsieur Prudhomme was there at the finish line for you – that was a nice gesture.
I was surprised by that, with 15 kilometres to go I had 15 minutes to make the line and realised that it wasn’t possible. As I approached the line I eased up and was surprised that there were still people there to greet me, I was just going to head for the bus then realised Christian Prudhomme was there to speak to me. He thanked me for my fighting spirit and courage, as you say, a nice gesture on his part.
Finishing on l’Alpe d’Huez stage 12 with Fabio Jakobsen
PEZ: You’ve been riding le Tour for a decade, what do you put the changes in the face of the race down to?
It’s down to teams and riders pushing the limits, SKY started the process with their ‘marginal gains,’ however I think in the last couple of years Jumbo Visma have caught them up – but also in Tadej Pogačar and Wout Van Aert you have very special riders. Then there’s the fact that there were only three real sprint stages, the sprinter stages used to be an opportunity for recovery for the GC guys, the break would go, be controlled and reeled in eventually – but this year virtually every stage went from the gun and never eased up.
Mørkøv and Viviani still friends
PEZ: Is it difficult when you get close to a rider as their right hand man, then they leave the team and overnight they become rivals?
Not really and this year the way everyone’s programme has worked out I’ve hardly raced against Elia Viviani or Sam Bennett. I still see them as friends, along with the likes of Alex Kristoff – but in a bunch sprint your only friends are the guys wearing the same jersey as you. That said, you’ll probably not be as ‘hard’ with them as you might be with others – and in turn hopefully they return those favours.
PEZ: You’re 37 years-old now, how do you maintain your high level of motivation?
I keep setting myself new goals – and I like to ride with a new guys, getting them into winning situations, if it was the same guys all the time then I might get stale? These last four years I’ve worked with four different guys who have all won Tour stages; Elia Viviani, Sam Bennett, Cav and Fabio Jakobsen – that’s pretty special.
Soon to be separated – Mørkøv and Cavendish
PEZ: What’s next on the agenda?
There’s the European Road Race Championships in Munich in early August and then the Tour of Denmark in the middle of the month.
World Madison champs
PEZ: And will you and Lasse Norman be defending your world madison championship?
The Worlds are in mid-October at Vélodrome de Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines in Montigny-le-Bretonneux in France – and yes, I have a plan for us to defend the title.
PEZ: Will we see you at the Kuipke in the Gent Six Day?
The disappearance of the six days from the scene has been disappointing – except for Gent of course, it’s probably sold out for the next 10 years! It’ll be Iljo Keisse’s farewell race and I’d love to do it with him but I’ll just have to see how it fits in with my other commitments. . .
Gent ‘6 Day’ 2015 – Iljo Keisse and Michael Mørkøv