Tuesday January 9, 2024 at 1:54 PM
Interview Fabio Jakobsen is the new big star at DSM-firmenich PostNL. In his debut season for the Dutch formation, he will contest both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France. “If we win a stage in the Giro and the Tour, we can speak of a successful year,” he said during a press moment of his new employer.
Another bike, new clothes, unknown people. A lot has changed for Fabio Jakobsen, now that he has switched from Soudal Quick-Step to DSM company PostNL. He rode for no less than six years The Wolfpack. “You become kind of… I would almost say: comfortable. You know everyone. Normally I met two or three new riders in the winter, but now I suddenly have 27 new teammates. You learn the riders’ names quickly, but those of the staff members are a bit more difficult to remember.”
Speaking of the riders. If you look at the selection of DSM-firmenich PostNL, you can draw the conclusion: all the pressure is on Fabio.
“Yes, but I’m used to that. Well, maybe not all the pressure. But in the races where I ride, it is always my responsibility to perform. Other than that it is of course just sprinting. That’s why I joined this team. Moreover, I think there are some talents here who have not yet shown their qualities. I have already noticed during training that there are strong riders, guys who are coming up. So no, I don’t think the team has to worry about the future.”
Which ‘strong riders’ are you referring to?
“There are some talented climbers. We once did a team time trial training, normally a discipline in which I can do my best. But men like Oscar Only and Max Poole did some serious work there. I also think of fast riders such as Tobias Lund and Casper van Uden. They are both still super young, but talented and fast.”
And yet, at Quickstep you shared the pressure with several riders. There were also other stars, such as Alaphilippe, Evenepoel and in the past even more big names. Here it is up to you and Bardet to perform.
“And Barguil too, I think. But yes, Quickstep can be called a star ensemble. On the other hand, it is no longer the same there as six or seven years ago. Back then you really had to look for servants in a race. Here the division of roles is clearer. I think that has to do with the way the team is set up, but also with the budget. At the same time, I cannot deny that I have to win sprints here soon. But I want that too.”
How long did it take DSM-firmenich PostNL to entice you to join this team?
“They had been interested for a long time. Not only last year, but in the past they have already inquired about me. They were even interested in my junior days, before I went to SEG. I have always looked at Argos-Shimano and later Giant-Shimano with an admiring eye. That was a team I could see myself joining, in the sprint train. I was fast then, so yes, I have always kept an eye on this team.”
At Soudal Quick-Step you already had strong, coordinated riders in the lead-out. Now the sprint train will have to be put back on track. How long do you think that process will take?
“That is difficult to estimate. It may be that we hit the mark on the first race, but if not, then we have something to work on. I think we have enough potential with our sprint group. For example, we have Timo Roosen, who comes from Jumbo-Visma. And someone like Bram Welten has also shown that a role in the lead-out suits him. I think we just have to start doing it together and then we’ll see. But by the time I ride the Giro and Tour, we have to be on a reasonable track and be competitive.”
“There is no immediate pressure for the first matches. Everyone probably expects us to fail. If that is indeed the case, then that is what it is and we can only get better. In any case, it is not expected of us immediately.”
How much say did you have in bringing certain riders to the team?
“I have of course put forward some names. Of the four or five guys who eventually came, we may have been talking about fifteen to twenty riders. But those riders always have other options. They receive offers and can make choices. Of course I don’t know exactly how that works, but yes, I have discussed riders like Timo, Bram and Emīls (Liepiņš, ed.) with Rudi Kemna, Roy Curvers and Iwan Speekbrink. Of course, they can only see what is happening on TV, while we as riders are in the race.”
You just said that there is not too much pressure on the sprint group for the first races. So in that respect it can only be better than expected.
“In fact, yes. How can you expect guys who have never ridden together to do it all well in one go? Maybe that will happen, then we will immediately know that we are on track. But it may also be that we still need some time. I signed here for three years. That’s because I believe in the project and want to contribute to it.”
However, you will also want to score this year. What are you aiming for?
“I would say: if we win a stage in the Giro and the Tour, we can call it a successful year. When it comes to victories, that can and should really be the goal. I think the most important thing is to get that sprint train on track, as I said. That’s the main focus. I don’t think anyone has any doubts anymore that I can win sprints. Only we have to do it together, because I can’t do it on my own. So the project is to go for it together.”
So this year you opt for two grand rounds. Explain.
“Yes, I don’t ride a classic spring. At least, not great classics. This way I can fully focus on the build-up to the Giro and then continue until the Tour. Ultimately we want to win sprints. That’s the most important thing to me. That’s what I’m best at, so we’re fully committed to that. Hence the Giro-Tour combination.”
Does this definitively put an end to your classic ambitions? After your victory in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne 2022 you said that Ghent-Wevelgem was your next goal.
“I think that Ghent-Wevelgem is really an option. However, you have to be part of a team like Quick-Step where you can really dominate the race. Or nowadays Visma | Lease a Bike. I’m not in that position now. I do get the chance to take a shot at winning in the big tours and in the individual sprint races, such as Bredene-Koksijde or De Panne. So those competitions are on my program.”
“But I think you have to be realistic, for example regarding a race like Milan-San Remo. Since I became a professional, not once has a large group sprinted for the win in that race.
Then you have to make choices. And I think the choice for the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France is a good one. I think it’s already a plate full.”