It's still early in the 2022 season, but the sight of Fabio Jakobsen celebrating as he crosses the finish is becoming more familiar with every passing race. The latest – his sixth victory in seven contested sprints and just 14 race days – came Monday at the crosswind-hit second stage of Paris-Nice.
When the peloton split in the gusts at 70 kilometres to go, Jakobsen was there along with several QuickStep-AlphaVinyl teammates and, of course, the Jumbo-Visma squad that tore up the script on stage 1. Only around 40 men made the cut, the group sticking out front until the finish.
There, after another chaotic day of racing, it was Jakobsen who came out on top –beating Wout van Aert and Christophe Laporte who had impressed so much 24 hours earlier.
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Ahead of his win at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne just over a week ago, Jakobsen said that team boss Patrick Lefevere likened the season to courses of a meal, with the early season being the 'aperitif' of what was to come – and the Tour de France presumably being the main course. Speaking after his win in Orléans, Jakobsen referred back to those comments.
"These are the races you want to win, especially here at Paris-Nice," he said. "Lefevere would say 'the previous races were aperitifs, now we have begun the starter'. This was beautiful, and from here we'll continue.
"At first we have wind and sprints and then we go to the mountains, so I have to do it in the first days. Yesterday turned out to be too hard, so we focussed on today."
While the likes of Jasper Philipsen – also racing at Paris-Nice – Caleb Ewan, and Mark Cavendish have started the season strongly, there's little doubt that Jakobsen has been the fastest man of the year so far, now having notched up three times as many wins as any other sprinter.
Not that he's done it all himself, of course. On Monday he could rely on his team –long experts in the crosswinds – to be at the front with him when the race split, with Classics experts Florian Sénéchal, Yves Lampaert, and Zdenek Stybar all up there.
Then, they went to work for him on the final run to the finish. The day was a near-perfect encapsulation of what the Belgian squad does well, another crosswind and sprinting masterclass to add to a long list.
"Here at QuickStep we like racing in the crosswinds," Jakobsen said. "There were four of us in the front. I'm glad I could finish it off. It certainly wasn't easy; the guys from Jumbo-Visma were again among the strongest.
"But, like I said, we like the wind, and we were very motivated. Even though the legs hurt because it was 60kph at full speed, we finished it off and I was able to win.
"Lampaert did an important turn on the front for me. Styby took over, then Sénéchal maybe waited a little too long. So [Laporte and Van Aert] went first, but in the end, I was always out of the wind behind them. I sprinted up to Van Aert's wheel and passed him on the left in the sprint with an uphill run in the end, the way I like it."
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Daniel Ostanek is production editor at Cyclingnews, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later being hired as staff writer. Before Cyclingnews, he was published in numerous publications around the cycling world, including Procycling, CyclingWeekly, CyclingTips, Cyclist, and Rouleur, among others. As well as reporting and writing news and features, Daniel runs the 'How to watch' content throughout the season.
Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France, and has interviewed a number of the sport's biggest stars, including Egan Bernal, Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Mark Cavendish, and Anna van der Breggen. Daniel rides a 2002 Landbouwkrediet Colnago C40 and his favourite races are Strade Bianche and the Vuelta a España.