The Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl rider hauled himself up the 18 percent gradients at the summit of the Peyragudes ski station, cheered by the hundreds of fans who had stuck around and in front of his watching teammates and staff.
With the digital clocks ticking down the amount of time the Dutchman had left, Jakobsen crossed the line and immediately veered left into the barriers, collapsing into a breathless heap.
His teammate Florian Sénéchal celebrated wildly and ran over to the sprinter, Jakobsen only able to respond by taking off his helmet and slumping over his handlebars.
A few minutes later, after enjoying a brief cameo holding onto a race motorbike as he climbed even higher to his team's bus, Jakobsen was apologetic as he refused an interview. "No, sorry," he said, in between pants of exhaustion. "Maybe the day after tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day."
Nipt! Uitgeputte Fabio Jakobsen komt maar net voor de tijdslimiet aan #TDF2022 pic.twitter.com/VIR7NajiV1July 20, 2022
Sénéchal did talk, but he did so welling up, his mind casting back almost two years to when Jakobsen almost lost his life in a high-speed crash at the Tour of Poland.
"After Poland I seen his face... and it was destroyed," Sénéchal said, tears pooling around his eyes. "Today, chapeau.
"He has my respect. He is my friend. I always wanted to give the maximum for him.
"I just said to him: push your limit for your family, for your teammates and you will win on the Champs-Élysées [on Sunday] for sure."
Given Jakobsen's story, making the time cut on a savage day in the Pyrenees is as much an achievement as winning a bunch sprint is.
The 25-year-old just made the time cut on stage 11 of the race, but stage 17 was an even closer affair. On the fourth and final climb, Quick-Step instructed his designated domestiques, Sénéchal, Mikkel Honoré and Yves Lampaert, to leave him so that they too would not miss the time cut.
"I must say it's almost a victory," the team's sports director Tom Steels said. "I think the whole team was quite emotional because they fought all day, they knew it was tight, and they had to leave him alone which was not easy because Klaas [Lodewyck, another team DS] had to say a few times that they had to leave him alone.
"We made the calculations and we knew it was tight, so we knew we had to leave him alone on the last climb.
"Just the last one-and-a-half kilometres you [could] see the time going away like nothing but he made it into the time cut.
"It’s always a difficult decision but with or without his teammates the last part he had to do himself. The teammates don’t make a big difference [at that point] and it’s just a fight against himself. He couldn’t go faster than he could, but he made it and that’s the most important thing.
"The fight for the time limit was the whole day, he set a pace that he wanted to do. t was nothing to do with a lot of calculations: just full gas all day, he rode the whole day on the limit, and we know on that part he still has to improve a bit to really be a bit more comfortable.
"He has a lot of character that he showed today, and that’s something he needed today. He already had it a lot to come back from his injury, and now he has it also to survive in the mountain stages."
It is Jakobsen's maiden Tour, the Dutchman having previously ridden and completed two Vueltas a España, winning five stages in the process. The differences between the two Grand Tours are stark, Steels explained: "Time limits in the Tour are always different to the time limits in the Giro or the Vuelta: they’re so tough to get inside a time limit because of the quality of the riders, because of the speed, because of the parcours. It’s never easy."
The prize of potentially winning on the most famous boulevard in cycling is what continues to drive Jakobsen, with just one more day in the mountains to come. "He has to make it to Paris," Steels smiled.
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