On Monday afternoon, Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl announced their squad for the Tour de France, and in so doing finally answered the question that has been hanging over the team since the start of the season: which of their star strikers will lead the line for three weeks in July?
Much of the media reaction - at least on this side of La Manche - has focussed on the (Manx)man who was not among the eight. Under-remarked upon was quite what an achievement it is for Fabio Jakobsen to be selected.
Although five stage wins at last year’s Vuelta meant the Dutchman had arguably already completed his comeback from the devastating injuries suffered at the 2020 Tour of Poland, the Tour de France is a league above. Some even say it's a de facto World Championships of sprinting.
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That Jakobsen’s place in the line-up has come at the expense of last year’s green jersey, and winner of four Tour stages last summer, only serves to underline how far he has come.
It also amplifies the scrutiny, intensifies the pressure and raises the already high expectations that come with riding for the winningest outfit in cycling. Patrick Lefevere’s team of rivals has averaged an unmatched 3.1 wins across the last 10 editions of the Tour de France.
That means that in his first ever appearance at the Grand Boucle, Jakobsen will be expected to deliver from day one. Well actually day two, because no one really thinks he’s going to beat Filippo Ganna in the opening stage time trial.
But Jakobsen would not be heading to Copenhagen if he and his employers did not believe his shoulders strong enough to support that burden. If his team-mates did not think he could complete the work they are sure to invest on those stages with minimal climbing and a flat finish, they would not be tasked with the effort.

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Like all the best sprinters - including his legendary team-mate - Jakobsen thrives off the responsibilities of leadership.
“It's extra motivation to have an entire team working for you,” he tells this week’s Eurosport Cycling Show. “It puts on an extra element of focus for me - you could call it stress. You better make sure that you are focussed in the final, and you are not missing any kilometre signs or corners.”
The Quick Step lead-out train is often described by commentators as “an armchair ride to the finish.”
What that means to Jakobsen is that “they’re going to bring you in the best possible position to win a sprint. The only thing that should give is confidence, because then you know ‘okay, I have an edge over my rivals. I did my training. It won’t get any better than this, so I have to go all for it.’”
And “go all for it” he will. Although he wears the physical scars of that fateful day in Zabrze, he presents few - if any - psychological ill effects.
Eleven victories this season, for a total of 17 since returning to racing, are proof that he is no more likely to turn tail than he was before.
“I’m not fearless, but I don’t want to crash,” he points out, perhaps unnecessarily. “It’s a risk-reward calculation, I think. You always need to be careful, but there is always the risk. If you want to be a professional cyclist, a sprinter, then I think you need to accept that.”
Nowhere are the rewards higher than at the Tour de France, where Jakobsen expects at least a handful of chances to come his way.
“It looks on paper it’s going to be a nice Tour de France. There’s probably five sprint stages [which] the team will have to control... from the beginning.”
A glance at the 2022 stage profiles finds several sure-thing sprint stages, a whole lot of not-on-your-lifes, in which making the time-cut will be the priority for the fast men, and a couple that cannot be ruled out for a fast bunch finish.
“It might be [a sprint day], might not,” says Jakobsen. “You just need to see how good your shape is, how well you can get either over climbs, what the bunch is doing. You cannot always control it, but if there’s a chance on a day like that then we will go for it.”
Our maths make that a maximum of seven possible victories.
Jakobsen, however, would be satisfied with just one.
“I think a stage win," said Jakobsen when asked what would constitute a success. "Finishing the Tour also, and that I’m not the only [Quick-Step rider] with a stage win… I would say a couple of stage wins, and to give this Tour some colour. We always perform there and that’s the goal again this season.”
Although Jakobsen is naturally hoping to stand on the podium at some point between now and the end of July, as it’s his first Tour de France, merely getting round remains priority number one.
“If you get to the Champs-Elysees it’s one of the biggest achievements you can make,” he says. “It means you survived the lap around France, which is already hard, and I think it’s an achievement for everybody that finishes. As a sprinter it’s an extra thing, because you need to get over the Alps, over the Pyrenees and then if you’re able to be the fastest there, on the cobbles towards the Arc de Triomphe…”
It’s a dream for the Dutchman, but one that could well become a reality.
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