Michael Morkov (Saxo Bank-Sungard) is confident that he will sprint to his first professional victory at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. The 26-year-old Dane believes that his best chances for a stage win will be during the stage six finale in Denver on Sunday.
"I still have to make my first win as a professional and I think I have a good chance to do that here," Morkov told Cyclingnews. "I was pretty damn close yesterday. Maybe with a little change in the sprint I could have beaten Elia Viviani. My morale and confidence is really good and I believe I can win a stage."
Morkov placed second in the bunch sprint during stage four that finished in Steamboat Springs. Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale) was delivered to the finish line by his teammates and won the stage ahead of Morkov and Kenny van Hummel (Skil-Shimano). His runner-up performance turned heads as he was not marked as one of the favourites on the day.
"I was confident yesterday," Morkov said. "I felt good during the stage and I told my teammates before that I believed I could do a good sprint. The reason why I was under the radar was probably because I have not participated in that many bunch sprints.
"I think I have a good chance here because there aren't that many sprinters. The sprinters that are here, I feel I have the same power. I might not be used to the positioning and fighting the sprinters as the other guys are, but I had a good sprint yesterday and good help from my team."
Team Exergy was the first team that organized a lead-out for its sprinter Fred Rodriguez. The team was overtaken with 15km to go by Viviani's team Liquigas-Cannondale. Other teams that made a strong lead-out presence in the final kilometres were Skil-Shimano, for van Hummel, and UnitedHealthcare, for Robert Forster. Morkov believed that a powerful lead-out may have helped Viviani, but it was not a necessity.
"Racing in a place like this with big roads, you don't need to sit in the front," Morkov said. "You can actually sit in the middle or the back with three or four kilometres to go, as long as it is not stretching out. That was more or less my tactic and I used some of my teammates to bring me up a little bit. I had André Steensen in the last kilometre and he really pulled the strings with 500 metres to go and gave me the position that I needed."
Morkov has been a world-class track endurance cyclist with results such as a Madison and team pursuit world championships, a silver medal in the team pursuit at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, plus multiple national championships in the Madison, points race, scratch race and team pursuit in his palmares.
"My skills come from the track," said Morkov. "I went professional in 2009 [on the road] and I have been struggling a little bit to find my level, it is a pretty high level to race in the WorldTour. Now I am starting to feel like I am at a good level and that I am capable of making some good results."
Morkov most recently competed in four Six-Day track events over the 2010-2011 winter, culminating with a victory in his home Copenhagen Six-Day in February, but that may be the final swan song of an enviable career on the boards.
"I won a lot on the track and I am proud of my results there. My main focus is on the road now. Of course I had so many nice results on the track and I will never forget them. In my heart, the track is there and I would like to continue as much as possible, but my main focus is on the road."
Morkov has finished two Grand Tours in his career thus far, both the 2010 and 2011 Giro d'Italia, and in this year's event he had the experience of riding in support of his teammate Alberto Contador, the 2011 Giro champion.
"That was probably one of the best experiences in my career," said Morkov. "It was a nice experience to ride with Alberto Contador, he is such a professional rider, and it was an honour to help him because he is so polite and so happy for all the help you can give him. The Giro was amazing and to be a part of winning a Grand Tour I am really proud."
In less than a month from the conclusion of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, the road Worlds will take place in his home nation of Denmark and Morkov is hopeful he'll be part of Denmark's six-man squad.
"The team has not been selected yet," said Morkov. "Since I have been riding pretty good in the Tour of Denmark and now here, I have been showing that my shape is coming up well and I believe I will still have a spot on the team."