Saxo Bank's Michael Morkov on JJ Haedo: "In a straight up sprint, he is perhaps the fastest in the field."
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Friday, March 11, 2011

Saxo Bank's Michael Morkov on JJ Haedo: "In a straight up sprint, he is perhaps the fastest in the field."

by Jered Gruber at 8:23 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Argentinian beats most of the world's best, while Dane prepares for important GC days

After taking third in the bunch kick on Thursday in Tirreno-Adriatico's hectic sprint in Indicatore, Saxo Bank-Sungard's Argentinian fastman, Juan Jose Haedo, got it just right and stormed to his first win of 2011, and what teammate Michael Morkov considers Haedo's biggest win ever.

Haedo's win on Friday continues a solid first week and a half of March, which has seen the team go from zero wins to four in the span of a week. Alberto Contador's two stages and the overall in Murcia kicked it off, and then Haedo iced the cake in Perugia. It hasn't just been the wins either - Nicki Sörensen finished 3rd in a nasty Giro del Friuli on the 3rd of March, Haedo was 3rd in Thursday's bunch sprint at Tirreno-Adriatico, and Richie Porte showed he's coming along just fine with a 3rd place finish in today's crucial time trial at Paris-Nice.

Following JJ Haedo's triumph in Stage 3, his teammate, young Dane Michael Morkov, spoke with about the day's effort. The aspiring general classification contender was happy to be a part of a win that showed the always on the fringes sprinter could beat the world's best.

"[Haedo] won a stage in the Dauphine last year, but in terms of prestige, I think this is clearly his greatest victory. JJ has previously been referred to as a rider who can only win when the best don't start, but he showed otherwise today."

Looking back at the day's efforts, Morkov lets on that Haedo is one of those sprinters that most of the world just doesn't understand how fast they are. Typically, sprinting is a win or lose game (obviously) - if you win, you're fast, if you don't, you're not. That's not always the case though - for example, sprinters like Theo Bos and, according to Morkov, JJ Haedo - are riders that are extremely fast, perhaps faster than the sprint winners, but most of the time can't get to the finish in such a way as to show just how fast they are. Haedo is in the midst of his fifth season at the sport's highest level and apparently things are starting to come together. The Argentinian admitted as much the night before his win, and his Saxo Bank team did everything they could to usher him to victory.

"We know very well that JJ is a great sprinter and in a straight up sprint, he is perhaps the fastest in the field. In addition, he said yesterday evening that he felt really good, which meant we all believed in him today."

Of course, things have come together for Haedo already - it's not that he's any stranger to the top of the podium. It's just that most of his wins have come against lesser fields. Last year, he won the Mumbai Cyclothon, the Rund um Köln, and a stage of the Dauphine. Certainly, these are great races, but as Morkov noted above - not races against the sport's best. On Friday, Haedo beat most of the world's best sprinters, who are all preparing for one of the biggest sprint showdowns of the season at Milano-Sanremo in just over a week.

Haedo's efforts and the entire team leadout were aided greatly by the squad's late signing and veteran of countless leadouts in the past, Italian Matteo Tosatto. Tosatto was a key element in the trains of both Alessandro Petacchi and in recent years, Tom Boonen. The 36 year old has been a part of more sprints in his 14 years of racing than most could ever dream of, and his experience shows according to Morkov.

"[Over] the last ten kilometers, Tosatto sat in third to last position and managed the whole thing, which he commanded over with all his experience from all the leadouts he has run. It was really a great help."

Unfortunately, the perfect leadout came apart in the final half a kilometer. Just as Baden Cooke was preparing to launch Haedo for the final sprint, things went awry. Luckily, Haedo's ride up until that point was about as cushy as they come. He managed himself well and managed to come around Stage 2's winner, Tyler Farrar for the win."

"The last 500 meters were not quite optimal, because Baden never got to launch him. Our work over the final ten kilometers meant that JJ didn't have to fight for position during that time, and thus he saved a lot of energy. That ended up benefiting him in the sprint."

The sprinters will take a backseat to the general classification hopes tomorrow as the race heads into the hills. Morkov confessed a hope ahead of the race that he might be able to get in there for a solid overall result, but he's already lost a little bit of valuable time following a small field split in the first bunch sprint. Today, the team nullified any chance of that when they included him in the leadout.

"Unfortunately, I lost some time yesterday. There was a small gap so both Gustav and I lost 12 seconds. That's why we decided that I should be part of the train today, both because I am good at it, but also because I was able to stay at the front and not lose any time."

Morkov currently sits in a respectable 26th place, but with the 31 seconds lost on the overall classification already and a newfound respect for the level of racing at the Race of the Two Seas, the Saxo Bank rider is just going to take it a day at a time and see what happens.

"It might be that I got a little bit ahead of myself by saying I want to race for the GC, because there is a really high level at this race…But now, I'll see what I can do in the next two tough stages - it's make or break."



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