King of the small mountains

In his first official stage of the Tour de France, Michael Mørkøv became only the third Dane ever to earn the mountain jersey.­­ Then, he refused to give it up

Just being able to read a map is no longer enough (photo: iStock)
July 4th, 2012 12:38 pm| by admin
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Those that thought Michael Mørkøv’s flirt with the polka-dotted jersey in this year's Tour de France was just a one-stage affair were mistaken.

Mørkøv, 27, took the jersey signifying the leader in the mountain climbing competition in the race’s first stage, wasn’t satisfied with wearing it for a single day. Not even close.

On the second day of riding, he snatched the single mountain point by joining that day’s breakaway, but then he also won mountain points by being part of his third consecutive breakaway yesterday on day three, something few riders have done.

Here, before the three-week circuit of France reaches the true climbing stages in the Alps later this week, the polka-dotted jersey, however, is less an indication of Mørkøv’s climbing ability – of which he has little – than it is of his tenacity and endurance. And quite possibly of the first-time Tour rider's ignorance that he still has over two-weeks of riding to do before the peloton reaches Paris.

Until then, Mørkøv is strutting his stuff dressed in polka dots.

In perhaps a sign of things to come for Mørkøv, who made his mark a track cyclist before switching over to road-racing, ran out of steam as the race entered the final incline and was in danger of being left behind by the peloton, German Team RadioShack rider and former teammate Jens Voigt helped him the rest of the way to the finish.

“I told him that he was becoming a hero and to keep going, but save some energy, there are still thousands of kilometres to go,” Voigt told TV2.

It’s been a stellar Tour start for his Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank team which had been heavily criticised this season and whose Tour squad had been called the weakest that the team had entered in the race for years. But so far, embattled owner Bjarne Riis, who himself wore the polka-dotted jersey for a day in the 1993 Tour, is looking like a bit of a genius.

Riis said, though, that there would be no fourth straight breakaway day for Mørkøv.

“Michael has been brilliant. But now he needs to take it easy,” Riis told Ekstra Bladet newspaper.

Saturday will most likely be the last day Mørkøv gets to ride in polka dots. The Tour hits the Alps that day, and the climbing begins in earnest with a category 1 incline summit finish, which is simply beyond Mørkøv’s climbing ability.

Until then, though, he is the king of the mountain, even if it is just a little one.

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