Mark Cavendish wins stage 2 of the UAE Tour.

Cavendish vs Jakobsen: Tour sprint leadership remains undecided

"So much can still happen," says Patrick Lefevere.

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Although Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl management has seemed committed to giving Fabio Jakobsen Tour de France sprint leadership over Mark Cavendish these past few months, the matter may not be settled. With Cavendish sprinting to his second win of 2022 on stage 2 of the UAE Tour on Tuesday, Quick-Step manager Patrick Lefevere and sports director Brian Holm have both hinted that the plan for the Tour has not been decided yet.

“So much can still happen – look at last year,” Lefevere said on Tuesday, according to Het Nieuwsblad. “The best one goes to the Tour and then has to finish it off against all the sprinters around.”

Cavendish, 36, was a late call-up to the Quick-Step Tour squad last year after Sam Bennett was scratched from the roster, and the Manxman delivered in his first appearance there since 2018. Cavendish won four stages on his way to tying Eddy Merckx’s record for career Tour stage wins, and he claimed his second career green jersey to boot. He has started his 2022 campaign with stage wins at the Tour of Oman and the UAE Tour.

Jakobsen, however, is seen as the sprinter of the future for Quick-Step. After returning from the serious injuries he sustained in a crash at the 2020 Tour of Poland, Jakobsen enjoyed an impressive 2021 campaign, with three stages and the points jersey at the Vuelta a España among his big results. He has gotten his 2022 campaign going in flying form as well, with two stage wins each at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and the Volta ao Algarve.

As VeloNews reports, QuickStep sport director Brian Holm has said that the team still sees Jakobsen as the first option for the Tour, but both riders are in the mix.

“Nothing is sure,” Holm said, according to VeloNews. “First on the list is Fabio, because Cav signed quite late with Patrick. For a moment there, we thought he would quit. I am not his manager so I don’t know everything that is going on. So for the Tour, Fabio is on the list and now Cav is back, so let’s see who is going fastest.”

Holm also brought up the surprise turn of events in 2021 that led to Cavendish making the Tour start as an indicator that much can still happen between now and the start of the race in Copenhagen on July 1.

“So for the Tour, we’ll see. First we have Fabio, and if he is absolutely flying, it might be Fabio. But look what happened to Bennett last year, no one expected that,” he said.

“With Cav, one thing we do know is never lose faith in him. As long as you have faith in him, Cav can win. But it’s the same with Fabio. He has a special head, too.”

For now, Cavendish will continue to hunt stage wins at the UAE Tour, and he has an expected Giro d’Italia start on the horizon before anything is known about his chances of racing the Tour de France. Jakobsen, meanwhile, will next be in action this weekend at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

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