Fabio Jakobsen was the heavy favourite for the opening stage of the Volta ao Algarve but the Soudal-QuickStep lead-out train misfired and the European champion faded in the Lagos headwind.
There were high hopes for the Belgian team, with one of the world’s top sprinters in Jakobsen and a bolstered lead-out that not only included the evergreen Michael Mørkøv but also his fellow Dane, the new signing Casper Pedersen.
With Kasper Asgreen there to make it a Danish trio in front of Jakobsen, many had expected QuickStep to stamp their authority and march to victory with a traditional peeling lead-out train, but it didn’t turn out like that.
“It was not really a good lead-out,” Mørkøv told Cyclingnews at the team bus in Lagos.
“It was quite chaotic, we had to come from behind and we were not all lined up together.”
Jakobsen, three times a stage winner in Lagos on the Volta, wheeled straight to his team bus that was beyond the line and hopped onto it in just about the same motion. The frustration was evident as he saw open road in front of him but could only manage fourth place.
“There was a strong headwind in that sprint, which also played a part, I think,” Mørkøv suggested.
Soudal-QuickStep had dominated the opening stage up until the final kilometres, with Tim Declercq doing much of the work to control the breakaway. Things became chaotic on the final climb and the run-in to Lagos, with a late dip down into a fast right-hand bend signalling the final kilometre, and a roundabout ahead of the final straight.
Asgreen was on the front dropping into the final kilometre but looked around and saw his teammates were elsewhere. Pedersen then played little part as Jakobsen stuck to Mørkøv’s wheel hoping his trusted lead-out man would find some gaps.
That he did, and Mørkøv gave Jakobsen a fighting chance as he hit the front and peeled off with just over 125 metres to go. However, Jakobsen didn’t launch immediately, instead pausing for a second in the wind before really opening the taps. Soon the stage winner Alexander Kristoff (Uno-X) was ahead on the other side of the road.
“We didn’t get it lined up like we hoped for,” Mørkøv said. “Obviously, all teams hope to make a nice line-up in a race like this but it didn’t go as we hoped today.
“We came from behind and in the end we launched where we wanted, but we’ll have to see the images to know exactly what didn’t go well.”
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