No words were necessary. Fabio Jakobsen had suffered through the Pyrenees and was only just still in the Tour de France he had dreamt of riding for years. When asked how hard the race’s last day in the high mountains had been he simply puffed out his cheeks in a long exhale.
When he eventually spoke he said: “I would say the Alps was the hardest, in race pace and the harsh feeling [in the legs] but that was in the first week of the Tour, this is the last week.
“Obviously, there's a bit more fatigue in the body, I can feel that my heart rate doesn't respond as quickly as it normally does - but that's normal.”
In his usual thoughtful careful tone he continued: “I think the last two, three days was a, there was a physical limit on my body, it's just there. I tried to keep the mind as sharp as possible. I always tell everybody that I never give up. I also have to tell myself [that].”
In the early part of the day Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl had worked hard to keep the peloton together because they feared a fast break that was given a lot of time could endanger Jakobsen by making the time cut too small. Sports director Tom Steels “We couldn't let a break away go that took 10 minutes before the before the first climb. So we closed almost every gap. And we started the climb 20 seconds behind the [main] group of 30. That was perfect. Then you know you just have to set the pace.”
He added: “We even have two guys in the breakaway who we will had to wait pull in the bunch, just to get the time cut right. That wasn't as easy as it's not a video game.”
Jakobsen was keen to thank his team-mates. That is not unusual for a professional bike rider. However, Jakobsen has had a well documented journey from near death in a crash at the Tour of Poland in 2020 to racing the Tour de France in 2022 and when he thanked the team you couldn’t help but feel this wasn’t just the traditional courtesy but a heartfelt sentiment.
After all his team-mate Florian Sénéchalhad been close to tears the day before when the Dutchman crossed the line at the top of the Peyragudes with just 15 seconds to spare to keep himself in the race.
Unlike that day, today on the 143km jaunt from Lourdes to Hautacam the entire team had stayed with him right to the end to help him through the mountains.
“The team is everything as a sprinter,” he said. “Without the team you are you are nothing. They are as important in winning sprints as they are in me getting to the finish line in these races [in the mountains].
“As a sprinter you realise that these guys are all I have, and I owe everything to them. I really love them.”
There are now two opportunities for him to do the thing he does best with a largely flat stage to Cahors tomorrow and the most important sprint of them all, the Tour’s finale on the Champs-Élysées.
When asked about the mix of emotions he felt about completing the Pyrenean test and the opportunities ahead a slight curl of a smile crept into the corner of his mouth: “I'm relieved I could make the time limit, but when I turn around and enter the bus, I'm going to put my shoulders back, my chest up a bit, and ask them what they think about tomorrow.”
And with that the peloton’s zen-master got up from the step of the bus he’d been sat on, pulled back the curtain and climbed the steps to fight another day.
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