Fabio Jakobsen, who in August 2020 was in an induced coma after suffering horrendous injuries in the Tour of Poland, won stage two of the 2022 Tour de France ahead of Wout van Aert of Jumbo-Visma, who moved into the leader’s yellow jersey for the first time in his career.
“This is what we train for, this is why we race,” Jakobsen said, after his success for Quick-Step in the stage from Roskilde to Nyborg. “A stage of the Tour de France is what I’ve been dreaming about for 15 years.”
The scale of Jakobsen’s comeback to the top of cycling cannot be overstated. Selected ahead of the multiple stage winner Mark Cavendish, it was his first Tour stage success and completed the journey from intensive care to Tour de France podium.
The high-speed crash he suffered was one of the worst in the history of the sport and traumatised all those at the scene. It left him with a brain contusion, skull fracture, broken nose, torn palate, the loss of 10 teeth and also parts of his upper and lower jaw. Speaking at the end of 2020 of his ordeal, he said: “I kept losing consciousness, slipping in and out. Every time I thought: ‘This is it, now I am going to die.’ This happened 50 maybe, 100 times. I didn’t die, but it felt like that. These were the longest days of my life.”
In the chaotic finale to another wise unremarkable stage, he showed that he has lost none of the drive and fearlessness that characterises the Tour’s best sprinters, slipping through nonexistent gaps and bumping shoulders with Peter Sagan of TotalEnergies before overpowering Van Aert to take the stage. The much-criticised omission of Cavendish by his team manager, Patrick Lefevere, was vindicated as Jakobsen took his team’s second stage win in less than 24 hours.
“Today is incroyable, as they say in French,” Jakobsen said with a smile. “For me, it was a long process, step by step. A lot of people helped me along the way. This is to pay them back so they can see it was not for nothing. I’m happy I still enjoy riding the bike and racing and luckily I can still win. It’s an amazing day and I’d like to thank all the people that helped me to here.”
Most of the action was packed into the final half-hour of the stage as the nervous peloton approached the monumental and highly anticipated 18km crossing of the Great Belt Bridge, the third largest suspension bridge in the world. Even before the bridge, tensions were high with Groupama FDJ’s Stefan Küng and Ruben Guerreiro of EF Education EasyPost caught on camera in a shoving match, with Küng appearing to push Guerreiro on the head.
The first of a flurry of crashes came with 22km to go and caused a split in the peloton, with Guerreiro’s team leader, Rigoberto Uran, second overall in the 2017 Tour, the most notable casualty. Three kilometres later, the overnight race leader, Yves Lampaert, and his Quick-Step teammate Michael Morkov were among the fallers after another switch of wheels took down half a dozen riders.
Morkov, lead-out rider for Cavendish in 2021 and assigned to assist Jakobsen in this year’s race, fought hard to regain last ground with Lampaert as the peloton battled the wind as it crossed the huge bridge.
But as the wind direction turned to a block headwind, any attacks were deemed futile and the expected battle through the crosswinds failed to materialise, setting the scene for the inevitable bumping and elbowing of the 2022 Tour’s first bunch sprint.
A pile-up of riders and bikes towards the finish delayed some and left Tadej Pogacar of UAE Emirates with double punctures, but the three kilometre rule, stating that within the final 3,000m of a sprint stage riders should not be time-penalised by crashes, allowed the deflated defending champion to pedal across the line untroubled.
Several Ineos Grenadiers riders were delayed by the crash, with Dani Martínez and Filippo Ganna going down, but Geraint Thomas avoided trouble to cross the line soon after Jakobsen. The Welshman remains 18th, 26 seconds off yellow.