What's Cool In Road Cycling

Inside The Grenoble Six With Jesper Morkov

The Grenoble Six may no longer be a full six days but the racing is still spectacular and very tough as Danish track star and brother of SaxoBank’s Michael Morkov, Jesper explained to us just after the finish in Grenoble on the weekend.

The six day season is upon us – but at a time when the sixes perhaps aren’t at their strongest it makes good sense to have two running concurrently, doesn’t it?

I jest – obviously not.

But just as former world Madison champions Kenny De Ketele and Gijs van Hoecke of Belgium were burning the house down to win in Amsterdam – home boys and current maillot arc-en-ciel incumbents Morgan Kneisky and Vivien Brisse were doing the same thing far to the south in the, ‘Capital of the Alps’ – Grenoble. Albeit since 2012 the French race is contested over four days – as is the Zurich race in these cash strapped times.

It would make sense to have an overall championship for the six days but the organisers are all too protective of their own races and the UCI would sooner we were watching stage races in China . . .

But I digress; for the first time in a long while PEZ wasn’t there – politics, changes of allegiances and the Amsterdam clash all contributed to our absence. There was no Pizza Natalie, Bar Clemenceau or Festival des Pains for Ed and Kris in 2013, c’est la vie.

But a man who was there and who partnered hardy Czech veteran Milan Kadlec to fifth spot in a tightly fought race was Denmark’s Jesper Morkov, younger brother of Danish Elite Road race Champion, Michael Morkov and a former Danish Points Race Champion in his own right and a podium finisher in the 2013 Copenhagen Six Day. He took time to give PEZ his impressions of the event:

PEZ: Before we talk six days, how was your summer road season, Jesper?
I was with the Danish squad, Team Tre-For – we had a really good programme with a lot of races in Denmark but we also rode races in France. I didn’t have great results but much of the time I was working for our GC guys or sprinters.

PEZ: How did the ride at Grenoble come about?
Patrick Sercu approached me and offered me the ride – I’ve ridden in Grenoble before, 2011 when it was still a full six days.

Jesper in full flight on the boards. That looks like it hurts!

PEZ: How did the crowd compare to 2011?
Maybe about the same – but they were very enthusiastic. I think the race will survive because they have their own formula. Sprinting has always been big in France and they have the sprint tournament which goes down really well with the crowd. They had their home hero (former world champion) Gregory Bauge riding and the German World Champion, Stefan Botticher.

I guess if we had good sprinters in Denmark then sprinting would be big at the Copenhagen Six Day, too! And they always have a good cabaret show in the track centre – this year the acrobats were really impressive.

PEZ: Who was your partner?
The Czech, Milan Kadlec – he’s not explosive fast but he’s very strong and a really nice guy. The programme isn’t like Gent or Copenhagen where it’s race, race, race. There are less races but it means that every race is full gas – at Gent for example the big teams can’t go 100% in every race because they have to remember that the chases are coming up, so they’ll perhaps let themselves go out early in an elimination race.

Milan Kadlec

But in Grenoble because there are less races they all tend to be full on – and you get paid by the points you accumulate so that makes for fast racing when there are Euros at stake.

PEZ: Did the French world Madison champions look good?
They were very good, maybe not for the first two nights but on the last two nights they were impressive. On the last night the Spanish guys Muntaner and Torres were leading on points and riding strongly; but Kneisky and Brisse took the winning lap very quickly in the last Madison and there was nothing the Spaniards could do about it, they were full gas.

Jesper getting a hand off from his partner Mathias Moller during the Track Worlds in February this year.

PEZ: No Marvellous Marvulli on the podium?
Going in to Grenoble you can usually say which teams will be on the podium and which will be the ‘middle teams’ – but it wasn’t like that, this year. It was a tight race, there were four teams on the zero lap and us at one lap going in to the finale. Franco was riding with the young French guy, Boudat and they finished fourth. I think this will be Franco’s last season . . .

Jesper’s previously partnered with Franco Marvulli to great success like here in Copenhagen in February.

PEZ: Have you got contracts for other races?
I just signed today for Gent and Zurich – and hopefully I should be good for Copenhagen, too. It’s a long gap to Gent but my brother Michael and I have never been frightened of training.

In two weeks I have the European Derny Championships coming up – last year I was second to the Italian rider, Davide Vigano and this year I want to try and swap a silver medal for the champion’s jersey! But the Derny takes a lot of specialist training and I’m in the middle of that right now.

PEZ: How’s the 2014 road season looking for you?
At the moment it’s a little bit strange – there’s a similar thing happening in Denmark as is happening in the World Tour with teams folding and guys out of contract. It means there’s a fight for every place. But on the other side of the coin there will be guys coming down from the World Tour teams – three from Saxo Bank for instance – to the Danish Continental teams so the standard of racing is bound to be higher.

And then there’s Alex Rasmussen, Garmin didn’t renew his contract and his morale has been low. But that’s hardly surprising when you see how he was treated – suspended then riding again then suspended again all over that ‘whereabouts’ stuff. He’ll be riding for the national track team and I think that’ll be very good for him – he’ll be back stronger than ever after a year.

# We’ll be catching up with Jesper again at Gent; meanwhile we wish him luck behind Roger Derny et Fils famous product in two weeks time. #

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