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Mørkøv proud to lead out 'living legend' Mark Cavendish at Tour de France

Scheldeprijs 2021 109th Edition Terneuzen Schoten 1938 km 07042021 Michael Morkov DEN Deceuninck QuickStep Mark Cavendish GBR Deceuninck QuickStep photo Peter De VoechtPNBettiniPhoto2021
Michael Mørkøv and Mark Cavendish of Deceuninck-QuickStep (Image credit: Bettini)

The news that Sam Bennett was not fit to start the Tour de France, paving the way for the return of Mark Cavendish, was met with mixed feelings by Michael Mørkøv, Deceuninck-QuickStep’s lead-out man.

The Dane had formed a close bond with Bennett since the Irishman’s arrival in 2019, playing no small part in establishing him as arguably the world’s top sprinter. However, the disappointment at not being able to progress that partnership at another Tour has been tempered by the chance to lead out someone he describes as a ‘living legend’.

Cavendish is the Tour’s most successful sprinter, with 30 stage victories to his name, but hasn’t appeared since 2018. His career seemed to be sliding to a conclusion last year but he has been re-born in QuickStep blue and is now making an unlikely return to the biggest stage.

"Mark is a living legend in the world of cycling, with all of the victories he has with him. He’s definitely the rider in the Tour de France peloton with the most wins," Mørkøv told Cyclingnews on Wednesday.

"It's also a proud moment for me to team up with him. I will be extremely proud if I can help him to be back on the level to win stages again at the Tour de France."

The respect is mutual. Ahead of the recent Belgium Tour, Cavendish appeared almost giddy when talking about the prospect of sprinting off Mørkøv's wheel, such is the reputation the Dane has acquired over the years and particularly at QuickStep in the past four years.

That was their first time working together but the relationship of the 36-year-olds goes back much further. Born three weeks apart, they have consistently rubbed shoulders over the past decade or more, both on the road and the track.

"We’ve followed each other closely from the sidelines over the years. We’re the same age, we met each other for the first time at a very young age, as kids on the track, and we always raced against each other – Madison world champs, six-days, stuff like that," Mørkøv said.

"Now we’ve got the first time to team up. Obviously we need to find each other. We can speak a lot about the sprint and tactics before but it’s also about knowing each other really well. That’s why I spent a lot of time with Sam the last couple of years. But we raced together in Belgium and I hope that was a learning session for us. I think it went well and we can be really dialled in from the first sprint at the Tour."

Things certainly didn’t click instantly in Belgium, but by the last day Mørkøv seamlessly led out Cavendish for a victory over a field that included a large chunk of the sprinters who they’ll be up against at the Tour. 

Besides, Mørkøv explained that, no matter who’s on his wheel, the nuts and bolts of his job remain the same.

"With all the sprinters I’ve worked with, they are all different personalities. They all have a different view on things and different preferences. But at the end of the day my work is to deliver them to a position where they can win sprints, and that doesn’t change so much," he said.

"It’s about leaving him 150 metres or 200 metres from the line. It’s just about getting that train right and getting him delivered in the right spot."

As Deputy European Editor, Patrick is responsible for Cyclingnews' long-form and in-depth output. Patrick joined Cyclingnews in 2015 as a staff writer after a work experience stint that included making tea and being sent to the Tour de Langkawi. Prior to that, he studied French and Spanish at university and went on to train as a journalist. Rides his bike to work but more comfortable on a football pitch.