Cycling

HAPPY BIRTHDAY FROM THE WOLF PACK

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“BACK from the dead” Dutchman takes the Vuelta green jersey, writes JOHN TREVORROW

FABIO Jakobsen took the final sprint stage of the Vuelta giving himself a 25th birthday present and all but wrapping up the overall green jersey sprinters competition.

The Dutchman was dropped on the day’s small main climb with 55 km still to go but his Deceuninck Quickstep team dropped back and nursed him back to the peloton.

It was his third stage win and an emotional Jakobson took time to thank his team but also the medical team that have managed to get him back into the peloton after his horrific and life-threatening crash in last year’s Tour of Poland.

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“A birthday is always a good day, but I’m over the moon with this win,” Jakobsen said, praising the chase of his Deceuninck-Quickstep teammates. “I think what we saw today is the ‘Wolf pack’. I was dropped on the climb, the guys waited for me, they brought me back and I won the race. The only thing I can do is win a short, fast sprint – they did everything else today. Also I would like to take this moment on my third victory to thank three people that were very important in my recovery,” said Jakobsen. “Professor Meyer from Nijmegen hospital, Yvan Vanmol my doctor at the team and my osteopath Cor van Wanrooij for my recovery – I love you all and this is for you.”

Australia’s Team BikeExchange had Michael Matthews near the front in the final hectic kilometre but the man known as Bling just didn’t have the sparkle required to match it with Jakobsen. He finished a close fourth behind Belgian Jordi Meeus (Bora Hansgrohe) and former teammate Matteo Trentin (UAE Emirates).

Nick Schultz looks the best chance for Team BikeExchange to get that elusive stage victory in this Vuelta. To do that he must get in the breakaway on one of the challenging stages ahead and will need to produce the ride of his life. But the 26-year-old Queenslander is riding his fifth Vuelta and has looked the strongest in the Aussie squad.

Stage 17 and 18 are the toughest of this Vuelta and are sure to see the overall contenders show their cards.  I don’t believe Norwegian Odd Christian Eiking or Frenchman Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) can survive the tough stages ahead and pre-race favourite Primoz Roglic (Jumbo Visma) is definitely the man to beat. But this race is far from over. It will only need the slightest crack to appear, and Enric Mas (Movistar) and Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) will pounce. They look the two biggest threats, but both their teams are depleted.  

As the race heads into the high mountains on the northern coast Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious) is getting into rarefied air as well –If, as expected, Eiking and Martin drop out of the battle for the red jersey then Haig is a real contender for a final spot on the podium. He will need the Ineos challenge of former teammate Adam Yates and Colombian superstar Bernal to peter-out and one of the Movistar climbers in Mas or Lopez to crack.  

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Author: John Trevorrow

JOHN TREVORROW is a multiple Australian champion road racer and Olympian who has been doing media commentary at the Tour de France for more than 20 years.

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