The Tour de France press corps passed the small Danish town of Mørkøv as it made its way from Roskilde to Nyborg on the off course course as the peloton covered the 202 km stage.
Sure, it was a barely perceptible spot on the map, a town of less than 2,000 people, but it was a fitting reminder of Michael Mørkøv, the leader of Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl responsible for teammate and sprinter Fabio Jakobsen.
Hours later, Mørkøv led Jakobsen to his maiden Tour de France stage victory at his first opportunity. The Dutchman is in his first edition of cycling’s biggest race, and on a day full of tension, he delivered.
It’s always worth remembering that Jakobsen nearly died following his crash in the Tour of Poland two years ago, the sprinter having been thrown into an induced coma following the incident. The man who caused the accident, Dylan Groenewegen (Team BikeExchange-Jayco), finished eighth.
Jakobsen suffered a brain contusion, hairline fractures in the skull, a fractured palate, loss of ten teeth, parts of the upper and lower jaw, cuts to the face, a broken thumb, a bruised shoulder, injuries to the vocal cord nerves and a pulmonary contusion on August 6, 2020. That’s a list.
The fact that he can swing his leg on a bike, not to mention the courage to head into the whirlwind of a tuck sprint, is incredible. Running fearlessly shoulder to shoulder with others at 60 km/h in the pressure cooker environment of a bunch sprint is a remarkable feat.
“I think it’s a special story for sure,” Jakobsen said, “It’s almost a fairy tale.
“I’m just grateful and of course I’m happy, but the crash made me more humble. So, even though I’m extremely happy, I always think of those other riders who didn’t survive.”
“I’m super grateful to even be here,” he continued. “You know, like I get the chance. There are other examples of riders not having the chance to come back – as a person or as a cyclist.”
The 25-year-old is more than that story, however, he is one of the best sprinters in the world, if not the best. No one is talking about Mark Cavendish not being selected now.
“Going back to the Cavendish story, I think we both deserve to be here,” Jakobsen said at the post-race press conference.
“He’s been a huge example to me over the last 15 years, maybe. It’s a legend. I’m just grateful that I was able to take the place – for some people, maybe take his place. I’m pretty sure he enjoyed my home win as well.”
Quick-Step is having a near-perfect time in Denmark
There have been two Tour de France stages so far and Quick-Step has won them both. Yves Lampaert took victory in the day one time trial, surprising himself in the process. In doing so, he claimed the yellow jersey.
“It means a lot,” said Quick-Step team boss Patrick Lefevere. “I’ve known Yves since he was a kid. He started cycling late, with a normal steel bike. He was a normal person, and it was his big dream to come to us. C “He’s a very loyal guy, he helps the team, even with yellow on his shoulders. Not selfish. We ask everyone not to be selfish, and you can see it’s working.”
Two wins in two days is almost perfection for the Belgian team. The yellow jersey was a bonus, a bonus that unfortunately only lasted two days. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) claimed bonus seconds on the line for the second stage to take the yellow jersey. Lampaert also managed to crash into the deck to take the literal shard off his leader’s kit and rip some holes in it.
“It was a very nervous day, all the wind and the back roads,” he said. “A huge amount of people next to the roads, crazy people. In the end we got the win and that’s the most important thing.
“I had the feeling at first [of the bridge] it was a strong headwind from the left, so I thought I’d avoid trouble inside the bridge. I’m going left, and a rider hit the back wheel of the guy in front of him, he crashed, and I had no chance of avoiding him. Luckily the speed was low and we didn’t have any big problems.”
“It’s sport,” said Mørkøv, of Lampaert losing the shirt. “It’s a high-level competition between the Belgians, I guess.
“How can you complain when you win the first two stages?” He continued. “It’s incredible.
“We have a good team here, and I’m happy that I was able to help Yves at a crucial moment on deck. Then putting Fabio in, obviously I couldn’t get him out at the end but we got him perfectly. placed and he won.”
The other negative point for Quick-Step on this opening of the Tour is the specter of Covid which hangs over the team. Tim Declercq was forced to return home before the race even started, and the virus has now taken the team’s press officer and senior sporting director Tom Steels, among others.
It feels like we’re getting the most out of the race while the team still can, but that could stay until the end.
“I think we have to take it day by day,” Jakobsen said. “Of course day to day doesn’t mean it’s a one day race, we want to get to Paris. It will therefore be a question of finding the balance between going all-in every day. I think the first week was a major focus for us.
“I think we are doing our best with the masks and trying to keep the distance. We know that’s not the best way to do it [with fans and press] towards the fence. But we want to be able to stay in the Tour for them too.”
“I’m as scared of COVID as I am of not meeting the deadline,” added the man with his first Tour victory in his pocket.