A controversial selection over Mark Cavendish saw the rookie Dutchman take the sprint seat at Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl and pause his teammate’s chance at topping the historic Tour stage win record one more year.
Jakobsen’s kicking victory in Nyborg on Saturday put a stopper on a pot buzzing with loaded questions and pressure to deliver.
“On the story with Cavendish, I think we both deserve to be here,” Jakobsen told reporters after stage 2.
Cavendish’s comeback in last year’s Tour was one for the ages. Long out of the winner’s circle, the then-36-year-old blitzed through the Tour to score four stage wins, the green jersey, and level him up with Eddy Merckx and his 34 stage wins.
“He’s been a huge example for me the past 15 years maybe. He’s a legend,” Jakobsen told reporters of Cavendish.
“I’m just grateful that I could take the spot – for some people, maybe take his spot. I’m pretty sure he enjoyed my win as well at home.”
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Team boss Patrick Lefevere made the call to cut Cavendish for this year’s Tour, just hours after the Manxman’s bullish ride to the British champion’s jersey.
The veteran team chief knows his sprinters after seeing Marcel Kittel, Elia Viviani, Fernando Gaviria and Sam Bennett flourish under his wing in the past decade and leading his “Wolfpack” to two green jerseys in two years.
“I may be old and white [haired], but not stupid,” Lefevere told Sporza. “I knew it was the right choice to take Fabio as a sprinter.
“Despite all the [COVID] setbacks, we got off to an excellent start on this Tour. We are on schedule with two out of two [after Yves Lampaert won stage 1 – ed] and looking forward to more.”
‘It’s almost a fairytale’
Speculation over Cavendish wasn’t the only page Jakobsen turned with his sizzling sprint Saturday.
The Dutchman’s comeback from career-threatening injuries in the summer of 2020 is a narrative that dominated the past 23 months.
Jakobsen only returned to racing last April and set the tone from the start, winning twice in Wallonie and adding three more victories to make a total of five at the Vuelta a España later that summer.
Beating top fastmen Caleb Ewan and Tim Merlier at the Elfstenronde last month before taking the top step in the first mass-kick of his Tour career confirms Jakobsen’s standing in both the sprint field and on the Quick-Step bus.
“I think for sure it’s a special story … It’s almost a fairytale,” Jakobsen said Saturday.
“I’m super grateful to even be here. You know, as I get the chance. There are other examples of riders that don’t get the chance to make it back – as a person or as a bike rider.
“The circle is made now, hopefully going to the Tour and having this comeback and to win a sprint in Nyborg – we can say I am one of the best sprinters in the world … today I was the fastest on the earth.”
A likely sprint finish on stage 3 on Sunday gives Jakobsen immediate opportunity to show just who’s fastest.