Due to the absence of Alberto Contador the Saxo Bank-Tinkoff team lacks a leader. While that's not only the case during the Tour de France, it's also been an issue during most of the first part of the season. After the Olympic Games the Spaniard will re-join the squad of Bjarne Riis but for now the team has to fight with the weapons it has.
The team is currently banking on the heroic efforts of Michael Morkov. The Dane is rising to the challenge as he's been part of the long breakaway group everyday so far, grabbing most of the KOM points and thus wearing the polka dot jersey.
"We drank a glass [of champagne] after he got the jersey," teammate Nick Nuyens said. "The new sponsor [Tinkoff Bank] was only announced recently and we're already on the podium. From the first stage on we had the polka dot jersey. That's a great bonus, also for Michael. He's a team player but now it's for him. He's making his name. He deserves this. He's been in almost every breakaway attempt this year and finally he's receiving a reward for it. He's saying it himself too: it's my moment of glory in my career," Nuyens said.
"It's nice for him, nice for the team and the new sponsor. He took some extra points today. Now there're a couple of days coming up with few points at stake so he's a little bit longer in the jersey. He's been in a long breakaway in stages with a lot of wind for three days in a row now; that's pretty hard."
The Belgian classics specialist Nuyens is one of the key riders in the Saxo Bank-Tinkoff team. An injury sidelined him for most of the Spring Classics thus making the 2011 Tour of Flanders winner one of the spearheads to score in the Tour de France which started in his home country.
Though the time trial discipline is not his specialty, Nuyens rode a good prologue in Liège on Saturday, finishing 20th. From there he waited for a good opportunity to aim for a stage win. Sunday's stage with the uphill finish in Seraing left him without an opportunity as he was caught behind when the careless photographer hindered a large chunk of the peloton. He didn't manage to come back to the peloton.
"I didn't have a great day then. I was well positioned but due to that crash with the photographer I was one of the last riders to pass him. From there I was chasing with Gilbert most of the time. When the men tried to get us to the front one moment I had to keep the pedals still and I lost them. I was a bit too far."
A better opportunity to score came two days later when the Tour de France entered France with a stage from Orchies to Boulogne-sur-mer. The winding roads towards Calais, the four small climbs within the last 16km and the uphill finish suited the Belgian quite well. Nuyens managed to avoid all of the crashes during the nervous and tumultuous stage and he featured near the front in the peloton that stormed up the climb in Boulogne-sur-mer, but then bad luck came his way.
"I was coming from the back on the left. It happened at 300m from the finish line but I don't know exactly what happened. They were tipping over and the rider ahead of me stops, goes halfway over the handlebars. I couldn't stop either and went half over the handlebars too but I managed to stay upright; my bike was completely... I was lucky not to crash myself. It's just a pity when you're up there all they. You fight, because it was a hard finale, and then due to a stupid crash you lose a result," a hugely disappointed Nuyens told Cyclingnews.
"If you see how Sagan wins it's pretty obvious that my sprint would not have changed anything but I think I could've made a nice result. I was coming up really well but of course I wasn't going to beat Sagan but a nice result was possible, somewhere in the top-10. We'll never know," Nuyens said before adding a few untranslatable Flemish words which express how his disappointed the Belgian was. "There were really not a lot of guys left up front, maybe 30 guys if it was that many. I could've gotten a nice result but that's the Tour I guess. It's a cliché but it's true."
There are more chances to come for Nuyens although he expected the upcoming two stages to end in a bunch sprint.
When looking beyond the Tour de France there are a couple of more goals for the Belgian. He's hoping to take profit from good form in the Tour de France to score in the Olympics, Eneco Tour and the world championships.
"That good form is something you receive for free by riding the Tour. You simply get into splendid form and if you can extend it you're riding with an extra gear. I aimed to be good at the Olympic Games. I'm on schedule for that. I'm yet to be selected. It's one of the goals. The world championships are on a parcours that suits me very well. There's a stack of classic Belgians for which it's suitable. It's possible to show up over there with a frighteningly strong team," Nuyens said.
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