By Martyn Herman
BERLIN (Reuters) – As preparation for a race goes, 34 hours in self-isolation in a hotel room is unlikely to catch on but an elated Michael Morkov shrugged it off to power Denmark to another gold at the track world championships on Sunday in the Madison.
Morkov, caught up in the coronavirus scare this week that shut down the UAE Tour and left the world’s best rider in quarantine, showed no ill-effects as he and Lasse Norman Hansen won the title in the Berlin velodrome.
Working in perfect unison in the 200-lap relay-style event in which riders take it in turns to race, hand-slinging their partner into the fray, the Danes gained a lap and scored regularly in the sprints to dominate.
They ended with 62 points to New Zealand’s 33, while German defending champions Roger Kluge and Theo Reinhardt were a point further back in third.
“It’s been a wave. Two days ago I was afraid I would not even participate in the event here,” Morkov, who spent the hours in his room training on rollers, told reporters.
The final day of action in Berlin included an emotional tribute to Germany’s Kristina Vogel, the reigning Olympic sprint champion paralyzed in an accident in 2018.
Vogel, now working as a television analyst, received a prolonged standing ovation after being awarded a special merit award by world cycling governing body the UCI.
Fittingly, Germany’s new flyer Emma Hinze then had the fans roaring as she went out and won the women’s keirin to follow her victories in the individual and team sprints.
Germany ended second in the medals table with four golds, all in the women’s sprints that Vogel graced.
This year’s world championships represented the last chance for track specialists to put down a marker for the Tokyo Olympics and the Dutch did so in stunning fashion.
Invincible in the sprints this week, it was almost inevitable that Harrie Lavresysen and Jeffrey Hoogland, who together set a world record in the team event, would go head-to-head in the individual sprint final.
And so it proved as Lavresysen, averaging 71kmh on the speed gun, overpowered Hoogland to deliver the sixth gold medal of the championships for the Dutch.
“Three times a world champion, I can’t believe it,” the 22-year-old powerhouse, who also won the keirin said.
The Netherlands ended with nine medals and it could have been 10 had Kirsten Wild not crashed in the points race as she attempted to add to her scratch race and Madison titles.
That let in Elinor Barker who rode to the rescue of the British team, producing a superb solo attack to win gold and spare the blushes of the powerhouse track nation, having also won her country’s only title at the worlds last year.
Britain virtually cleaned up on the track at the Rio Olympics, winning six gold medals, having scooped seven four years earlier in London, but they will go to Japan knowing there is a lot of work to do to maintain their dominance.
Off the pace in the men’s team pursuit, in which Hansen helped propel the Danes to a massive world record, and the men’s sprint events in which Britain managed only one silver, Barker at least provided some late cheer.
For comeback stories though, Morkov’s could not be beaten.
He only arrived in Berlin on Thursday from the ill-fated UAE Tour where the last two stages were canceled and the entire peloton, including four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome, were confined to their hotel for tests after two Italian team members were suspected of having coronavirus.
Morkov, who quit the UAE Tour to compete at the worlds, actually went to the velodrome on Thursday and was hugging his team mates after their time trial exploits.
Hours later, after news came out of Abu Dhabi about the lockdown, he voluntarily self-isolated with nothing more than his phone and his rollers for company.
Finally, on Saturday morning, he was give the all-clear by the UCI, and he made the most of his escape.
“It’s hard to describe being world champion here after two days being in the room,” he said. “But it looks like (self-isolation) worked well.”