Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) finished stage 17 of the 2022 Tour de France just inside the time cut.

Fabio Jakobsen survives penultimate mountain stage with 15 seconds to spare

The Dutchman crossed the line 15 seconds inside the time limit, keeping his dream of Paris victory alive with one mountain stage to go.

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Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl’s Fabio Jakobsen was the last rider to finish stage 17 at the Peyragudes altiport, coaxed homeward by a small crowd of teammates and staff amassed just beyond the line as the clock counted him in. He finished with just 15 seconds to spare.

The 129.7 km stage was back-loaded with four tough Pyrenean mountains leading to the summit finish, and it was raced full gas from the off, ultimately contested by the top two on GC, Tadej Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard.

The time limit was set at +18% of the winner’s time, which gave those who favour sprinting a little over 37 minutes to make it to the finish. Jakobsen’s teammates Yves Lampaert, Florian Sénéchal and Mikkel Honoré all finished between 32:03 and 32:16 after stage winner Pogačar, and then awaited their sprinter, presumably having left him to ride the last climb at his own pace with the broom wagon dogging every pedal stroke.

The time limit was +37:03. Jakobsen’s deficit was +36:48.

Florian Sénéchal and Yves Lampaert follow their team staff to Jakobsen’s side as the broom wagon reaches the line behind them.

“I saw while climbing from his face he was really badly broken,” Sénéchal told Wielerflits shortly after Jakobsen finished, tears reddening the Frenchman’s eyes. “He really never gives up. He’s my friend. I stayed with him today, as I always want to do, I want to go to the max for him. I told him to push his limits for his family and teammates.

“That he passes the time limit by fifteen seconds, that is the Tour de France. This way he can sprint on the Champs-Élysées.”

The big Dutch sprinter, who took his first stage win on day two of his debut Tour de France, has one more mountain stage to contend with before the last trio of stages to cap off the 2022 Tour: one probable sprint stage, a time trial and the sprint finale. The primary job for Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl will be to get Jakobsen to Paris and the unofficial sprinters’ world championships on the Champs-Elysées.

“Today was just full gas all day,” said Tom Steels, Quick-Step team director. “There was nothing to do with a lot of calculations. He was full gas all day, he rode the whole day on the limit. We know on that part he needs to improve a bit to be more comfortable.”

Jakobsen has often struggled in the high mountains, only narrowly surviving the final week of the 2021 Vuelta a España to take the green jersey all the way to the finish, a victory he said he shared with his teammates. That’s not to say that he’s unusual as one of the peloton’s fast men – the race against the time cut is all part of being a sprinter. Or for that matter, a sprinter’s lead-out man; Jakobsen lost keystone support rider Michael Mørkøv to the time cut on stage 15 earlier this week.

There’s no sprinter’s jersey to defend this time – Jakobsen sits on 155 points against Wout van Aert’s 416; the Jumbo-Visma man has already mathematically sealed the green jersey – but there’s a massive opportunity to come on Sunday.

“He has a lot of character that he showed today,” Steels continued, referencing Jakobsen’s storied comeback from his Tour of Poland crash in 2020. “That’s something he needed today. He had it a lot already to come back from his injury and now he had it also to survive in the mountain stages.”

Tomorrow’s stage 18 is the last mountain stage of the race, and it’s likely to be one of the hardest, if only for the build up of fatigue. At 143.2 km with two hors-category and one Cat.1 climb, finishing on the mythical Hautacam (13.5 km at 7.9%), it’s going to be another attritional day, especially with things so tight in the fight for yellow.

“OK – he made it,” Steels said. “Let’s hope he recovers for tomorrow and that will be one more day.”

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