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Tour de France

Tour de France: Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl on ‘thin ice’ in race against COVID-19

Quick-Step's lead sport director and media officer both went home Saturday, and the team is racing with urgency.

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NYBORG, Denmark (VN) — Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl is trying to squeeze all it can out of the Tour de France, and fast.

Why? COVID-19 sent home the team’s lead sport director Tom Steels and its media officer Saturday. The team won Friday’s time trial with Yves Lampaert and delivered Fabio Jakobsen to the line Saturday.

Winning two stages in a row reveals just how much the team is hoping to win often and early so far in this 2022 Tour.

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“I really feel we are walking on a thin layer of ice,” said Quick-Step’s Michael Mørkøv of the COVID breakout. “We also agreed this morning we have to take it day by day. We don’t know how long we will be here. COVID is getting closer and closer.

“There is a fear. We already lost a lot team members, our main sport director, our media officers, some soigneurs and mechanics. We are already a bit on the limit, but we still have the fighting spirit on the bikes.”

Mørkøv steered Jakobsen through heavy traffic that included a late-stage crash, and the Dutchman fended out Wout van Aert to win the stage.

With Mark Cavendish left at home, there was a relief that the team could deliver in the sprints.

“It means that we have won five Tour de France stages in a row with the team, so I think that is pretty extraordinary,” said Mørkøv, referring to last year’s Tour with Mark Cavendish. “With Fabio, we all know his story from the Tour of Poland, and coming back. Winning again at the highest level, he is such a great guy. I really enjoy that he is winning a Tour de France stage today.”

Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl is having a near-perfect opening to the 2022 Tour.

Yves Lampaert won Friday’s opening time trial in the rain, and Jakobsen’s victory Saturday makes it two in a row for the Belgian powerhouse.

Though Lampaert lost the yellow jersey to Van Aert on bonus seconds, the team is intent on keeping the momentum going all the way back to France and the cobblestones in stage 5.

“We have won 12 times Paris-Roubaix, and most teams never have, so we know something about that,” said team boss Patrick Lefevere. “We hope to do well there, and before that, too. We have Fabio and we expect to win some more sprints.”

“Fabio is on great form and the whole team is sparkling,” Mørkøv said. “We’re going to go for another one tomorrow.”