Fabio Jakobsen took a decisive win today in Nyborg in his first-ever Tour de France sprint stage, and paid tribute to his overwhelming good fortune to be riding at all during his post-race press conference.
Jakobsen described being dropped off on the wheel of Wout van Aert by his QuickStep-AlphaVinyl teammate and lead-out Michael Mørkøv, before coming into physical contact with Peter Sagan in the final few hundred metres.
The two managed to ride on comfortably before Jakobsen took the sprint win from Van Aert, with Mads Pedersen in third place. “This is racing, and with Peter you know he's going to stay upright,” Jakobsen said.
"From above things always look a little more scary than on the bike," he added.
Given Jakobsen's horrific crash at the Tour of Poland in 2020, the press conference centred on the humbling story of Jakobsen's recovery from a near-fatal incident. "I think it's for sure a special story," he said, "It’s almost a fairytale."
Jakobsen spoke emotionally about other riders who had suffered serious injuries in the sport. "I'm super grateful to even be here," Jakobsen said. "You know, as I get the chance. There's other examples of riders that don't get the chance to make it back - as a person or as a bike rider."
While a Tour de France stage win in a debut sprint race is a standout achievement for any rider, for Jakobsen it was a particularly emotional win because of his recovery and the trauma of his crash. "I'm just grateful and of course I'm happy, but the crash made me more humble," he said.
"So even though I'm extremely happy, I'm still here thinking about those other riders that didn't make it."
The Cavendish spot
“To get back to the story of Cavendish I think we both deserve to be here,” Jakobsen said.
“He's been a huge example for me the past 15 years. He's a legend. I’m just grateful that I could take the spot - for some people, maybe take his spot.”
Despite the much-publicised rivalry for QuickStep’s coveted sprint spot, Jakobsen felt Cavendish would have watched the race with appreciation for Jakobsen and the team’s win, “I'm pretty sure he enjoyed my win as well at home.”
Beyond the selection battle, COVID-19 has looked large over the QuickStep-AlphaVinyl team during the Tour de France, with seven positive cases in the last week amongst the team. Speaking about those COVID-19 cases, Jakobsen expressed concerned optimism.
“I think we need to take it day-by-day,” he said. “Of course, day-by-day doesn't mean that it's a one-day race - we do want to get to Paris. So it'll be about finding the balance between going all-in every day. I think the first week was a major goal for us.
“I think we do our very best with the masks and trying to maintain distance. We know this is not the nicest way to do it [with fans and press] towards the fence. But we want to be able to stay in the Tour for them also.”
While Jakobsen will continue to target sprint stages in the coming weeks, entering stage 3 as a likely favourite, he remains aware that COVID-19 could derail his Tour campaign.
"I'm just as afraid of COVID as of not making the time limit."
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