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ORLÉANS, France (VN) – Fabio Jakobsen is hoping that his sixth victory of the season and his first ever in Paris-Nice will boost his chances of selection for Milan-San Remo, which takes place the weekend after next, but played down the suggestion that it might also heighten his prospects of a debut appearance in the Tour de France this summer.
Speaking to the press after his stage two success in Orléans, where he outpaced the in-form Wout van Aert on the drag up to the line, the QuickStep-Alpha Vinyl sprinter was asked about the battle between him and Mark Cavendish for their team’s sprint spot at the Tour and whether this win had boosted his chances. “In the end, at QuickStep, the best sprinter goes to the Tour,” he responded.
“I’ve been in this team for five years now. It’s never been different. We always have a couple of guys for the spots. I would say there are maybe 14 names on the list for the Tour and I’m one of them, but I’m not really focused on that now because there are races now that I want to win.”
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Jakobsen said that the team’s attention will only switch towards the Tour once the spring is over and they can gauge every rider’s condition, stressing the fact that it’s not only sprinters like him and Cavendish who are under their team management’s scrutiny. “There’s always rivalry for spots, for everyone – for sprinters, for lead outs, even for domestiques in our team. The best ones go. It’s a hierarchy to the max, so of course you want to perform.”
The Dutch sprinter continued by saying that his focus at the moment is winning as often as he can, but not so that he can ride the Tour. “I’d never won a stage in Paris-Nice before. Now I’ve got one and that was the goal for today,” he said.
Pressed on whether his victory might instead help him with his ambition to ride Milan-Sanremo and, soon after, Gent-Wevelgem, Jakobsen admitted that he had no idea what QuickStep managers have in mind for those races yet, but that he hopes to be involved in both. “I would love to go to Milan-Sanremo, but I guess that’s up to the management, especially Tom Steels and Wilfriend Peeters, who are here. I think they have a watchful eye over me and I think they will decide at the end of the week.”
Jakobsen added that he believes he’s doing all he can to earn selection. “I think I’m showing that I’m able to be up there. I think maybe there’s more chance for Wevelgem than Sanremo, because Sanremo is a different race. But I can be up there in echelons, I can get over a small hill,” he pointed out, qualities that will certainly help his push for a place in Gent-Wevelgem.
However, he admitted he’s not where he needs to be yet. “On the first stage here I was maybe dropped a bit too early, so there is some work to do. But I guess with a good Paris-Nice in the legs my condition could go one step up with a view towards those races.”
The 25-year-old sprinter, who has got back to his best following his horrific crash at the 2020 Tour of Poland, admitted that beating van Aert in Orléans had given him particular pleasure because of the level the Jumbo-Visma rider has maintained since coming back from his own career-threatening crash at the 2019 Tour de France.
“I look up to him. I think I could compare myself a little bit to him because he also had a nasty crash like me,” said Jakobsen. “I had to come back from a deep valley, so it’s nice to beat a guy like that who’s done the same. I made my comeback and then you want to beat the best, and I guess I have beaten the best today.”
He was also pleased by the fact that he’d won such a hard stage, affected by crosswinds almost throughout. “It’s quite special to win, but I think this was on another level, with echelons all day, around 100 kilometers of focus and pushing power, thinking about positioning, and then in the end beating Wout van Aert, who in my opinion was one of the best all-round riders in the world last year,” he said.
He pointed out that the QuickStep team had been determined to show that their failure to contend on the opening day had given them extra motivation to be in the heart on the action throughout the second stage. “Today was our specialty I think. We really wanted to show that we can do it in the echelons,” he acknowledged.