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Danish leadout master and track specialist Mørkøv has raced against Cavendish for nearly two decades, and after years of fierce rivalry, the duo is finally on a team together at Deceuninck-Quick-Step.
Mørkøv says that from what he’s seen of his new teammate so far, the “Manx Missile” is looking the most lethal he’s been in years as he begins his second spell with the Belgian squad.
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“He’s super motivated to be back on this team, which is understandable because he had some of his best years as a rider on this team in the past, and I can really see that he’s been growing since he joined the team,” Mørkøv told VeloNews.
“On training camp, I could see him getting better and better, more and more fit, and to me seems really motivated,” he continued. “For me already, he’s a much different Cavendish than what we saw in the last years.”
For 35-year-old Cavendish, the return to the Belgian squad having raced with them from 2013 through 2015 marks a “YOLO” final throw of the dice as he looks to reverse a late-career spell of illness and disappointment before hanging up his wheels for good.
The Manx sprinter made his season debut at the Clásica de Almería last weekend, and though a puncture robbed him the opportunity to contest the bunch kick in downtown Almería, he was in his element in the “total racing” tactic of the Quick-Step Wolfpack.
“What an absolute dream to be back racing with these boys,” Cavendish wrote after the race. “Felt like a pure bike racer again. Loved every single moment.”
For Mørkøv, Cavendish’s boyish, boisterous love of the elbows and accelerations of the pro peloton is driving the 35-year-old’s return to the form that made him the best of a generation before seeing mononucleosis derail his recent seasons.
“You can clearly feel that he’s into cycling still because he just loves the sport and not because he’s trying to make up for something that he didn’t meet in the years past – he just really enjoys being a professional bike rider and riding his bike,” Mørkøv said. “He looks like he’s really is super motivated and dialed in, and he seems to really love just being a part of our team again.”
Mørkøv and Cavendish have been locking horns in the velodrome since their junior years and banging shoulders in road sprint finales for over a decade.
The duo both found their early successes on the track and have gone head-to-head in the velodrome in World Cups, world championships, and six-day races since their junior years. In 2008, Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins ripped past Mørkøv and his teammate Alex Rasmussen when the Danish duo held the lead in the Madison world champs. One year later, Mørkøv turned the tables to beat Cavendish to the rainbow jersey.
With Mørkøv tracing a path toward the Tour de France in support of Sam Bennett and with Cavendish’s schedule still to be confirmed, the pair of 35-year-olds may not see their long rivalry turn to shared ambition for some time yet. But when that time comes, Mørkøv is optimistic Cavendish could be cracking the fizz to break his 36-month winless spell.
“He’s definitely not a bad bike rider, that’s for sure,” Mørkøv said. “What I really look at is the motivation. I see that he’s very motivated to do his training and to race and do his best and if you have that, I think there’s a fair chance that he will be playing for victory this year.”