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BOULOGNE-SUR-MER, France (VN) – For a rider who has won medals riding in ovals, Michael Mørkøv (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) is doing pretty well when the road goes up so far in the 2012 Tour de France.
The former trackie has ridden in three consecutive breakaways to earn enough points that should keep him in the distinctive King of the Mountains jersey going into this weekend’s mountain stages in the Vosges.
The Dane has no pretensions about what will happen once the real climbs come, but he’s certainly enjoying the ride right now.
“I have only been racing up third- and fourth-category climbs, so I know that I will not be able to defend it once we hit the Alps or even the climbs this weekend,” Mørkøv said. “It’s been three intense days. I now hope to enjoy this jersey for a few days.”
Mørkøv snuck into Sunday’s main breakaway to snag the KOM points to grab the 99th Tour’s first mountain jersey.
He rode into the breakaway again Monday and Tuesday, giving him nine points to Peter Sagan’s and Ivan Basso’s two. With three sprint stages likely over the coming days, Mørkøv could carry the polka dot jersey into the Vosges.
Saxo Bank team boss Bjarne Riis was sure that Mørkøv had the legs to win a stage on Tuesday, but taking the climber’s jersey is perhaps even better.
“It’s good exposure for the team and of course we are happy to have it,” Riis said. “I really didn’t want him to attack yesterday, but he did anyway. If he attacks tomorrow, I will get on the bike and chase him down myself.”
Mørkøv, 27, is a former track racer and was the 2009 world madison champion with Alex Rasmussen. He’s since focused on the road, making his grand tour debut in last year’s Giro d’Italia.
Saxo Bank sport director Philippe Mauduit said the opening day exploits were a pleasant surprise.
“He will be very tired. It was hard today, with wind, up and down, it never stopped, but now we have the jersey for a few more days without doing anything,” Mauduit told VeloNews. “We knew if he was not in the breakaway today, we knew he would lose it. Michael is not a pure climber. He is just a fighter.”
The jersey comes as a bonus for Riis’ squad, which has been struggling in the wake of the racing ban against team star Alberto Contador. Contador is sitting out this year’s Tour, meaning that the team can — and has to — race in a different manner.
“It’s a different kind of Tour for us, but it doesn’t mean we don’t anything to do. Every day we will have a different goal. We have 21 stages, so we have 21 opportunities to do something great,” said Mauduit. “It’s also fun when you have a guy racing for the yellow jersey, but it’s also nice to see the boys having their chances and going for it.”
For Mørkøv, the polka-dot jersey is something he wants to celebrate in the coming days.
“It’s been like a fairytale for me, but I know it will end in the mountains,” he said. “It’s a bit funny that I am not a climber and I am wearing the climber’s jersey. I can relax now a bit and enjoy this.”
Tejay keeps white
Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) defended his white jersey in another brutal day of racing that saw scores of crashes and attacks in the closing kilometers.
Van Garderen’s first job at the Tour is to help defending champion Cadel Evans and he realizes that every additional day in the young rider’s jersey is an added bonus.
“We try to stay together as a team, so as long as I stay with the team and not get dropped, I keep the jersey,” van Garderen said after the stage. “It’s simple in words, not so simple in actions.”
Van Garderen was among nearly 60 riders to whom the race jury awarded the same time as white jersey rival Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky), who was second in the stage, at one second back, due to a crash with about 300m to go.
Stage winner: Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) won his second stage in three days in his Tour debut
Yellow jersey: Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) defended the maillot jaune for what will be his 25th day in yellow in his career
Green jersey: Sagan widened his lead in the points race, 116-74 to Cancellara
Polka dot jersey: Michael Mørkøv (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) rode into a breakaway for the third day-in-a-row to score more points to defend his KOM jersey
White jersey: Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) finished with the leaders to keep his young rider’s jersey
Best team: Team Sky continues to lead the classification
The peloton: Sitsou, Rojas first abandon
The 99th Tour saw its first abandons. J.J. Rojas (Movistar), who had crashed in stage 1, broke his clavicle and did not finish. Kanstanstin Sivtsou (Team Sky) crashed out with a knee injury. Some 196 riders remain in the race.
More than 60 riders in the front group were awarded the same time as second-place finisher Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky) who were caught up in a crash in the final climb Art. 12.1.040.2.2.027
Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Yauheni Hutarovich (FDJ) – all fined 50CHF for “comportemente incorrect” Art 12.1.040.29
Maarten Tjallingii (Rabobank), Jonathan Cantwell (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) – both fined 30CHF for following behind team cars too long Art 12.1.040.19.2.1
Karsten Kroon (Saxo-Tinkoff) fined 50CHF and penalized 20 seconds for following behind team car too long Art. 12.1.040.19.2.2
Mark Renshaw (Rabobank), allergies
Crash at 70km: Yury Krivtsov (Lampre-ISD), cuts to knee, elbow, hip
Dimitry Fofonov (Astana), cuts to left knee
Janez Brajkovic (Astana), cuts to left elbow and hip
Crash at 140km: Kanstantsin Sivtsou (Sky), broken left tibula
Dominik Nerz (Liquigas), cuts and scrapes
Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel), queasiness
Crash at 168km: JJ Rojas (Movistar), fractured left clavicle
Gianpaolo Caruso (Katusha), blow to chest
Crash at 300m to go: Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM), cuts to left knee
Man hit by caravan
Tour officials confirmed that a 56-year-old was struck by one of the vehicles in the publicity caravan in the town of Saint-Floris. He was taken to a local hospital with a broken collarbone.
Weather forecast: More unsettled weather
Continued cool temperatures, with highs in the mid 60s F, mostly cloudy skies and a chance of afternoon showers. Southwest winds of 15-20 kph.
Tomorrow’s stage: Another shot for the sprinters
The 99th Tour continues Wednesday with the 214.5km fourth stage from Abbeville to Rouen. The stage features four fourth-category hills along the route as well as an unrated climb in the final 10km that should liven up an expected bunch sprint.