The Tour de France press corp drove past the small Danish town of Mørkøv as it made its way from Roskilde to Nyborg on the hors course route while the peloton covered the 202km stage.
Sure, it was a barely noticeable point on the map, a town with less than 2,000 inhabitants, but it was a fitting reminder of Michael Mørkøv, the Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl leadout man responsible for his teammate and sprinter Fabio Jakobsen.
A few hours later Mørkøv led Jakobsen to his first Tour de France stage victory at his first opportunity. The Dutchman is at his first edition of the grandest bike race, and on a day full of tension, he delivered.
It is always worth remembering that Jakobsen nearly died following his crash at the Tour of Poland two years ago, with the sprinter being put into an induced coma following the incident. The man who caused the crash, Dylan Groenewegen (Team BikeExchange-Jayco), finished eighth.
Jakobsen suffered a brain contusion, hairline fractures in the skull, broken palate, losing ten teeth, parts of the upper and lower jawbone, cuts to the face, broken thumb, bruised shoulder, damage to the nerves of the vocal cords and a lung contusion on the 6 August 2020. That is some list.
The fact he can swing his leg over a bike, let alone has the bravery to head into the maelstrom of a bunch sprint is incredible. Fearlessly going shoulder-to-shoulder with others at 60km/h in the pressure cooker environment of a bunch sprint is a remarkable achievement.
"I think it's for sure a special story," Jakobsen said, "It’s almost a fairytale.
"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'm still here thinking about those other riders that didn't make it."
"I'm super grateful to even be here," he continued. "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."
The 25-year-old is more than this story, however, he is one of the best sprinters in the world, if not the best. No one is speaking about the non-selection of Mark Cavendish now.
“To get back to the story of Cavendish I think we both deserve to be here,” Jakobsen said in the post-race press conference.
“He's been a huge example for me the past 15 years, maybe. He's a legend. I’m just grateful that I could take the spot - for some people, maybe take his spot. I'm pretty sure he enjoyed my win as well at home."
Quick-Step have an almost perfect time in Denmark
There have been two Tour de France stages so far, and Quick-Step have won them both. Yves Lampaert stormed to victory on the opening day time trial, surprising even himself in the process. By doing that, he claimed the yellow jersey.
"It means a lot," Quick-Step team boss Patrick Lefevere said. " I’ve known Yves since he was a kid. He started cycling late, with a steel bike, only normal. He was a normal person, and it was his big dream to come to us. He’s a very loyal guy, he helps the team, even with yellow on his shoulders. Not selfish. We ask everybody not to be selfish, and you can see it works."
Two wins in two days is almost perfection for the Belgian squad. The yellow jersey was a bonus, a bonus which sadly only lasted two days. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) claimed bonus seconds on the line of stage two to take the maillot jaune. Lampaert also managed to crash on the bridge to take the literal shine off his leader's kit, and rip a couple of holes in it.
"It was a very nervous day, all of the wind and the small roads," he said. "A huge amount of people next to the roads, crazy. In the end we took the victory and that's the most important.
"I had a feeling at the beginning [of the bridge] that it was a strong headwind from the left, so I thought I'd stay out of trouble on the inside of the bridge. I go left, and one 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 had no big troubles."
"That's sport," Mørkøv said, on the fact that Lampaert lost the jersey. "It's a top competition between the Belgians I guess.
"How can you complain when you win the first two stages?" he continued. "It's unbelievable.
"We have a good team here, and I’m happy I could help Yves on a crucial moment on the bridge. Then placing Fabio, obviously I was not able to lead him out at the end but we placed him perfectly and he won."
The other negative for Quick-Step over this Tour opening is the spectre of Covid hanging over the team. Tim Declercq was forced to go home before the race even started, and the virus has now taken out the team's press officer and Tom Steels, the senior directeur sportif, among others.
There is a sense of making the most of being in the race while the team still can, but it might stay in until the end.
“I think we need to take it day-by-day,” Jakobsen 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."
"I'm just as afraid of COVID as of not making the time limit," the man with his first Tour win in his pocket added.
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