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Faro, Portugal (VN) – Fabio Jakobsen is well aware that his chances of making the Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team for the Tour de France will not hinge on his performances here at the Volta ao Algarve, and that several other factors will determine as to whether team boss Patrick Lefevere will settle on the Dutchman or Mark Cavendish for that much sought-after sprinter spot.
That said, Jakobsen’s blistering start to the season continued apace on Friday with his second win of the race – and fourth of the year – as he showed his rivals a clean pair of heels on the line in Faro.
On a slightly uphill but straight finish, the powerhouse sprinter was expertly delivered to the line before kicking clear of the opposition and holding off late challenges from Tim Merlier and Bryan Coquard.
“I guess if you’re in good shape then you need to take everything that’s there for the taking,” Jakobsen told VeloNews and other members of the press after the podium ceremonies.
“I’m happy with already having four wins. We’re only two races into the season and it’s really amazing because this time last year I went for my second surgery and now I have four victories. So it’s a big difference. I’m just so happy and grateful to be here. From here we continue.”
“It was 400 meters uphill at around four percent average. In Valencia, we also did a sprint like that and I love to sprint like that. It’s all about power in the legs. I was behind Bert Van Lerberghe with around 200m to go and he put me in the perfect spot. I could launch my sprint and then it was a full 15 seconds to the finish. I saw Tim Merlier behind me but he wasn’t passing me, and then I knew that it was time to put the arms in the air.”
During the off-season, Patrick Lefevere penciled in Jakobsen for the Tour de France, with Mark Cavendish set for a dispatch at the Giro d’Italia in May. Plans can change of course, and those with even the shortest of memories will recall that Sam Bennett was the preferred Tour sprinter at Quick-Step right up until the moment he wasn’t.
The rest is history, with Cavendish making a last-minute call-up in July 2021; winning four stages; a second green jersey of his career, and equalling Eddy Merckx’s jaw-dropping tally of Tour stage wins.
Jakobsen knows how quickly things can change in cycling, too. It’s almost a year since his second major operation following a life-threatening crash at the Tour de Pologne in 2020 and his comeback has been one of the most heart-warming stories in recent years. During his post-stage press conference, the Dutchman explained that momentum was important at this point in the year but that goals in July were still a long way off.
“You need to rest. When I come back from Algarve I’ll take a couple of easy days and then it’s almost Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and then I’ll rest a bit more. Then I’ll do Paris-Nice,” he said.
“They’re the two big goals at the start of the season. It’s important to perform here. Then you have these in the bag and then I can go with confidence.”
“We call these preparation races because if you want to be at your best then these are races where you can get going again. That means eating and drinking, getting used to the peloton, finding each other, and that’s why we have these races. They’re obviously good races and help to prepare us for the coming months.”
Cavendish has also taken a win this year – a sprint in the Tour of Oman – and while the Giro d’Italia is listed in his calendar there is still a possibility of him making the Tour given how quickly the landscape can change, and his pedigree. He is, after all, the best sprinter of all time, and his form last July was as good as anything the cycling world has seen of him since his heyday.
Make no mistake, this is a good problem for Lefevere to have. He essentially has two sprinters on separate programs – both of them gunning for victories just to prove that they could potentially lead the line in July. The victories at Quick-Step will flow.
“The Tour de France is on the plan but that means that you need to be good when the Tour de France starts,” Jakobsen said when asked about his view on the Tour de France.
“I’ve got that in the back of my mind, and I don’t look that far ahead. First, we have the spring and then we have the summer. I missed half of last year, so I really want to do well this spring. That’s why I’m already at this level now.”
When asked directly by VeloNews if Quick-Step could consider a two-pronged sprint attack for the Tour the Dutchman paused before responding.
“That depends,” he said.
“We have a long list with 14 names. I’m not the only sprinter on the list but it’s on the plan, which means I don’t prepare for the Giro but I do prepare for the Tour. And if I’m not good enough then I don’t go. I’ll guess we’ll see. The summer is a long way off and you never know what happens. Now I’m in the Algarve and I’m enjoying it. The summer is something next.”