BOULOGNE-SUR-MER, France (VN) – For a rider who has won medals riding in ovals, Michael Mørkøv (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) is doing pretty well when the road goes up so far in the 2012 Tour de France.
The former trackie has ridden in three consecutive breakaways to earn enough points that should keep him in the distinctive King of the Mountains jersey going into this weekend’s mountain stages in the Vosges.
The Dane has no pretensions about what will happen once the real climbs come, but he’s certainly enjoying the ride right now.
“I have only been racing up third- and fourth-category climbs, so I know that I will not be able to defend it once we hit the Alps or even the climbs this weekend,” Mørkøv said. “It’s been three intense days. I now hope to enjoy this jersey for a few days.”
Mørkøv snuck into Sunday’s main breakaway to snag the KOM points to grab the 99th Tour’s first mountain jersey.
He rode into the breakaway again Monday and Tuesday, giving him nine points to Peter Sagan’s and Ivan Basso’s two. With three sprint stages likely over the coming days, Mørkøv could carry the polka dot jersey into the Vosges.
Saxo Bank team boss Bjarne Riis was sure that Mørkøv had the legs to win a stage on Tuesday, but taking the climber’s jersey is perhaps even better.
“It’s good exposure for the team and of course we are happy to have it,” Riis said. “I really didn’t want him to attack yesterday, but he did anyway. If he attacks tomorrow, I will get on the bike and chase him down myself.”
Mørkøv, 27, is a former track racer and was the 2009 world madison champion with Alex Rasmussen. He’s since focused on the road, making his grand tour debut in last year’s Giro d’Italia.
Saxo Bank sport director Philippe Mauduit said the opening day exploits were a pleasant surprise.
“He will be very tired. It was hard today, with wind, up and down, it never stopped, but now we have the jersey for a few more days without doing anything,” Mauduit told VeloNews. “We knew if he was not in the breakaway today, we knew he would lose it. Michael is not a pure climber. He is just a fighter.”
The jersey comes as a bonus for Riis’ squad, which has been struggling in the wake of the racing ban against team star Alberto Contador. Contador is sitting out this year’s Tour, meaning that the team can — and has to — race in a different manner.
“It’s a different kind of Tour for us, but it doesn’t mean we don’t anything to do. Every day we will have a different goal. We have 21 stages, so we have 21 opportunities to do something great,” said Mauduit. “It’s also fun when you have a guy racing for the yellow jersey, but it’s also nice to see the boys having their chances and going for it.”
For Mørkøv, the polka-dot jersey is something he wants to celebrate in the coming days.
“It’s been like a fairytale for me, but I know it will end in the mountains,” he said. “It’s a bit funny that I am not a climber and I am wearing the climber’s jersey. I can relax now a bit and enjoy this.”