Danish track cycling stars Alex Rasmussen and Michael Mørkøv will not snub the upcoming UCI track world championships in their country's Ballerup Super Arena, March 24 - 28, despite having switched their focus to road racing with Saxo Bank. They are currently training in southern France as part of their preparation for the Flemish classics and the Giro d'Italia respectively. The duo will take part in Cholet-Pays de Loire on Sunday and then head home to Denmark to defend their title in the Madison event, but not in the team pursuit.
"We changed our focus to road racing after the Beijing Olympics (where they earned the silver medal for Denmark in the team pursuit) but with the world championship being in Denmark it's also important for our team Saxo Bank," Rasmussen said.
"We both grew up as track riders, so our hearts remain on the track forever," Mørkøv said. "We have competed together at World Cup and world championship events since 2004."
Rasmussen and Mørkøv, 25 and 24 respectively, will compete in the Madison, but not the team pursuit, since the Madison doesn't require more than a couple of days to make a transition from road racing back to track competition. "We've done so many Six-Days together," Mørkøv said. "We have the technique, the speed and the knowledge and we won't lose it in two months."
"For the Madison, you really need to be strong and you get that on the road," said Rasmussen, who will also start the scratch race in Copenhagen on Saturday, March 27, while the Madison will be on Thursday, March 25. "We presume our main adversaries will be Peter Schep/Danny Stam from Holland, Robert Bartko/Roger Kluge from Germany and Iljo Keisse/Kenny De Ketele from Belgium. These are the guys we know from the Six-Days but Spain, Argentina and Russia always come to the Worlds with good teams as well. It's never easy to win a world championship."
The Tour of Flanders, the Scheldeprijs and Paris-Roubaix will be on Rasmussen's agenda after the track Worlds. "I've always dreamt about riding Paris-Roubaix," he said. "I don't know what to expect but I believe we have three guys at Saxo Bank who can win it: Stuart O'Grady and Fabian Cancellara, who have won it before, but also Matti Breschel who is going very well this year. I'm not thinking about the Tour de France, maybe later if I develop and get skinnier, but for now I focus on the short stage races and Paris-Roubaix."
Rasmussen and Mørkøv will go separate ways as the latter is scheduled to start his first Grand Tour with the Giro d'Italia. "My goal is to come through the three weeks. I'm average in most of the disciplines of cycling, I think I could climb as well," he said.
Both Danish cyclists are coached by Bradley McGee who was another track champion turned into a road rider. "I'm happy I got connected with such a good guy," Mørkøv said of McGee while Rasmussen stated, "He's good with us because he's so young. I find it hard to have a coach who hasn't raced for 30 years."
"We could feel from the start that Bradley believes in out talent," Mørkøv said.