Normally the Cyclingnews Rider of the Day would be awarded to a rider who has done something extraordinary on the front of the race. But today it goes to the injured Michael Mørkøv (Katusha), who, after fighting through his injuries for a full week at the back of the peloton, finally gave in on the first day of the high mountains on stage 8 of the Tour de France to Luchon.
The Danish rider's fortitude set a record for the Tour de France: the longest the peloton has remained intact - seven full stages - but almost every day he finished alone, dead last, fighting to make the time cut some stages. We have to commend Mørkøv for his fighting spirit and his unflagging dedication to his team.
"It's really sad because I've been fighting more than a week now to get back in the race and to be of value to my team," Mørkøv said after dropping out. "I feel really sorry for the team that I couldn't contribute any more than this to this Tour. It is going to be very painful to me to watch the team carry on without being able to help them. Luckily I know the team is full of strong guys, and I will cheer when I can from home.
Although his injuries, which came from a crash on stage 1, were getting better, Mørkøv was not left with enough energy to make the time cut on a stage that traversed four major mountain passes.
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"It went better every day, and I even felt pretty good, but I have to accept I had some extremely hard days, and because of that I was quite fatigued. The stage today did not go as it should if I would have the chance. I'm very sad to let everyone down who has been cheering for me and pushing me through until now. It's an emotional moment. I would have been very happy to carry on."
Daniel Benson says: Our rider of the day awards often praise winners and riders who have made the race, but spare a thought for Mørkøv, who has been a shell of a rider ever since his stage 1 crash. Each day, often minutes after the bunch has passed through, the Dane has limped home and climbed solemnly onto the Katusha bus, but on stage 8 it proved a mission too far, his body unable to respond and carry him over the mountains.
He is the first rider to leave the race, but he does so having at least honoured the sacrifice and commitment that makes professional cycling the hardest sport on the planet. Yes, Froome descending was exceptional, and yes other riders are out there suffering and they made the time cut, but the three little letters, DNF, next to his name barely tell the story of Mørkøv’s own race and his valiant yet unwinnable battle.
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