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The best against all odds

07/03/2023

If one thinks about what he had to go through less than three years ago, it is nothing short of impressive, to say the least, that Fabio Jakobsen is still here dictating the law among the world’s best sprinters, of whom he can now be considered the king. Today in Follonica, in the second stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico 2023, the Soudal-QuickStep rider took his first career victory in Italy, he who has already collected up 40 victories at the age of 26.

And God only knows how many more there could have been, had he not spent almost a year trying to become a normal person again after the terrible crash in Katowice, at the 2020 Tour of Poland. Fans will remember it well: Jakobsen, on that first stage of the Polish race, crashed into the side barriers during the final sprint, falling, losing his helmet and also hitting a race worker in the impact. He was found on the ground, conscious and in a pool of blood, then taken to Katowice hospital where he was put into a medically induced coma due to severe respiratory damage and multiple fractures to his face. If the doctors had not intervened in time, he later admitted, he would not be here now to put on a show for cycling fans. They rebuilt his jaw and subjected him to countless facial surgeries to restore his normal face.

Initially it was said that it would be difficult for him to return to a normal life. He did it. Or get back on a bike. He did it. Or go back to professional racing. He did it. Let alone winning again. Well, he did that too. Since his return to the peloton, he has won 22 races, including three stages at the Vuelta a España, one at the Tour de France and a European Championship. Indeed, one wonders where he finds the courage to sprint at 70-80 km/h, shoulder to shoulder with his rivals and brush against those same barriers that almost took his life.

“I like to think that what I went through can only happen once in a lifetime,” Jakobsen said after the stage today. “You have to believe in the fairness of the rivals and the sport, in the safety rules applied by the organisers. I must believe this will never happen again otherwise I would never go for a sprint.”

Tomorrow, in the Follonica-Foligno stage, Jakobsen could have another chance to sprint for victory. Another chance to sprint even further away from that living hell he suddenly found himself facing back in 2020.

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