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On his 25th birthday, Fabio Jakobsen won stage 16 of the 2021 Vuelta a España with a massive kick to the line that almost made the sprint look easy. And this came after he was distanced from the peloton, on a small riser earlier in the stage, only to be brought back to the bunch by the “Wolfpack.”
The Dutch rider, now just a year out of a life-threatening crash on stage 1 of the 2020 Tour of Poland, has regained top form. His green jersey was again seen streaking to the finish line as it also did on stages 4 and 8.
Here’s what the stars said with just five days of racing remaining.
Jordi Meeus (Bora-Hansgrohe), 2nd, at :00
Meeus, who was involved in a crash earlier in the race — which saw Giulio Ciccone, Guillaume Martin, and Enrico Mas all delated — was able to mix things up in the bunch sprint in Santa Cruz de Bezana.
In the chaotic final 3km, as the GC teams pulled back to let the sprint trains take control, Deceuninck-Quick-Step and Bora-Hansgrohe appeared to control the race.
Inside 500m to go, Jakobsen’s leadout man Florian Sénéchal rode off the front, and had to sit up to wait for Jakobsen.
Jakobsen had already hopped on Meeus’ wheel and launched his winning attack from behind the Bora rider, who had also lost his leadout train right inside of the red kite.
“It was a tricky final today, but the team really did a perfect job. We lost each other a bit over the last kilometer, but I still managed to stay up front. I was in a good position but I have to be honest, Jakobsen was just simply faster today. I think I can really mix things up in the sprints now,” Meeus said. “But the Vuelta is my first Grand Tour and I’m just lacking a bit of that final speed against riders who have some more experience. But this strong result definitely gives me more confidence for the near future.”
Odd Christian Eiking (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux): 46th, at :00
With just five stages remaining — which include two very tough climbing stages and an individual time trial — and nearly a minute lead over Guillaume Martin, Eiking is in an enviable position, but is also quite aware of the situation.
He’s stayed safe when his competition has crashed, and he’s been conservative with expending energy on climbing stages, and at the front so as not to lose time to his rivals.
“Lagos De Covadonga is going to be really decisive in the overall standings, and it will be really hard racing from the start tomorrow. It will be really fun to race it,” said the race leader.
Matteo Trentin (UAE Team Emirates), 3rd, at :00
Trentin has been notably consistent on the flatter stages of the 2021 Vuelta. He’s bagged a handful of top-10s, but a stage win has eluded him so far. Without any flat stages remaining, the Italian sprinter will be challenged this late in the race, to get onto the top step of the podium.
“It was a fast race as always. The guys did a really good job on the front and we managed to split the pack and put on a bit of pressure, but there was still a long way to go.
“My positioning for the sprint was good but Jakobsen is in very good shape and hard to beat at the moment. Now we focus on the mountain stages where we’ll aim for another win,” said Trentin.
Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange), 4th, at :00
Matthews, like Trentin, has been remarkably consistent but without a stage win so far in this year’s Vuelta.
He was put into a good position in the finale of stage 16, after a technical bit of road before the red kite. Matthews just could not match the power of Jakobsen, Meeus, or Trentin in the closing meters of stage 16.
“It was a very twisty, technical final, we knew with 6km to go the place to be was right at the front and we were there with numbers,” he said. “All the boys did a great job up to the final kilometer, everyone did their role, also Luka [Mezgec] pulled for a kilometer on the front to get me into the final kilometer. I slipped in behind Quick-Step, they still had a lead out guy there to lead out Jakobsen, but in the final left-hand corner I came in way too fast, and my back wheel was totally drifting through there, so I had a little bit of a moment. I managed to stay on my bike and was able to contest the sprint, but I lost too many positions after I almost crashed. I think it was a good team effort today, unfortunately not a win again, but we’re not going to give up until we get to the end.”
Alberto Dainese (Team DSM), 5th at :00
Team DSM was again mixing it up in the finale of stage 16, with Dainese just a few wheels back of a podium finish.
Earlier in the stage, after a few took a tumble and the break was established, the German-based squad did much of the work to patrol the front of the chase and keep the breakaway in check.
“The guys did an insane job today controlling the break with Thymen to start and the rest in the final,” said Dainese. “Personally, I also had a super day and really good legs. Unfortunately, in the sprint at around 350 meters to go, I had a slight mechanical and even though I got it sorted, I could only sprint to fifth in the end. It’s a shame as I really thought could I go for the win today and pay the guys back for their efforts.”