Fabio Jakobsen dismisses talk of rivalry with Mark Cavendish: 'The best will go' to the Tour de France

Dutch sprinter says he's in better shape than ever ahead of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday

Fabio Jakobsen
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Fabio Jakobsen dismissed reports of a rivalry with Mark Cavendish over a spot in Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl's Tour de France squad, explaining that "the best will go".

Speaking to the media ahead on Thursday ahead of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne this weekend, the Dutch sprinter also said that "I haven’t been better than I am now".

The 25-year-old said that his "planning" was aimed towards the Tour, but could not say for sure if he would be in the team as it is "always the best that goes".

Jakobsen has won four races so far this season out of the five sprints he has taken part in; he won two at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and two at the Volta ao Algarve, gaining the points jersey at both races in the process.

Meanwhile, his team-mate Cavendish has won two races, including a stage of the UAE Tour, Quick-Step's first WorldTour win of the season.

The Manxman jointly holds the record for stage wins at the Tour, while Jakobsen has never raced the Grand Tour, although he is possibly the most in-form sprinter in the world at the moment. He won three stages at last year's Vuelta a España, as well as coming second twice.

"I know that Fabio Jakobsen said at the media day in Calpe at the beginning of January that he is normally going (to the Tour), but I have a long list," team boss Patrick Lefevere said earlier this week.

On Thursday, Jakobsen said that this was "what you guys [the media] made of it, I said it was in my planning".

"I think we all said the same thing, but I guess you want to end up with a rivalry," the Dutchman continued. "I’ve been in this team for four, five years, I started at the bottom so I’m kind of used to this. My planning goes towards there. But as Patrick said, if I’m not in shape Cav can go and Cav also has a plan. 

"In the end, it’s always the best that goes. We don’t hand out selections in December, it’s just the plan. We are winning races, and that’s what we are bike riders for. The best will go… as everybody in the team will say. I guess we will see who that is."

Mark Cavendish at the 2022 UAE Tour

Mark Cavendish will be hoping for a Tour return, but is slated to ride the Giro d'Italia in May

(Image credit: Getty Images)

He name-checked Alpecin-Fenix's Jasper Philipsen as a rider to beat in upcoming races after he won two stages of the UAE Tour.

"He won two stages there, he's the guy to beat," he said. "Also Cavendish [won one stage], but he's in the same team so it will be hard sprinting against him. As a sprinter, of course you watch all the races, but I also watch the mountain finishes because in the end I'm also a fan of cycling, so that's why I'm mentioning his [Philipsen's] name. 

"It's always easy to see the winners and be willing to measure yourself against them as an athlete. I saw a summary of the sprinters going to Tirreno and Paris-Nice, and he's going to be there [at Paris-Nice] so I look forward [to it]."

Jakobsen said that his winter had seen him return to a normal training plan after his recovery from the serious crash in which he was involved in 2020. He said his plan has been almost a "copy and paste" from what he did in the winters before that event, although he said he was "stronger now".

"I did not do anything differently this winter," he explained. "Apart from being a little bit older, more experienced, and maybe riding with a little bit of different motivation from last year...

"Right now, I haven’t been better than I am now. If I don’t win now, I don’t think I could have won before also. The power data, but also my feeling on the bike, my feeling in the race… it’s just a bit better than in previous years. It has to do with age and experience."

Asked about how he copes with being one of many cards Quick-Step have to play at a Classic like Kuurne, Jakobsen spoke of patience and respect.

"The way I look at it, for instance with Kuurne from two years ago as an example, Kasper [Asgreen, who won in 2020] is always one of the guys who's pulling for me in bunch sprints, positioning wise, making a line of the peloton and putting me in the position to sprint for the win," he said. 

"There’s many other guys doing that job for me also in sprints, and I’m grateful for that, they get me in the position to win. Every once in a while I need to sit back and be patient because if they are gone, they have a chance of winning. I need to respect that also, and I think that’s the strength of this team. All team-mates enjoy watching other team-mates winning also, because it’s our win and it’s a collective. 

"We are probably the only team able to do that, we are a lineup of winners. If you make the comparison to the Jumbo squad for the Opening Weekend, for Omloop, they also have a couple of winners, but not like our guys. We have four main guys winning races, they can all win, so that’s our team I guess. That's the Wolfpack."

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