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Groenewegen’s wayward sprint at the opening stage of the Polish tour in August set Deceuninck-Quick-Step fast man Fabio Jakobsen into the barriers at high-speed, leaving him with serious injuries to his face, head and chest.
Groenewegen also crashed after crossing the line, and broke his collarbone in the resulting pileup. The 27-year-old was disqualified from the race, and later benched by his team while Jumbo-Visma waited on punishments to be determined by officials.
“The crash in the first stage of the Tour of Poland will forever be a black page in my career,” Groenewegen said Wednesday. “During the sprint I deviated from my line. I am sorry, because I want to be a fair sprinter. The consequences were very unfortunate and serious. I am very aware of that and I hope this has been a wise lesson for every sprinter.”
The Jumbo-Visma sprinter’s sanction is effective from the date of the incident, and so he will be out of action until May 7, just one day before the 2021 Giro d’Italia is set to start. A statement from the UCI confirming the punishment Wednesday explained that Groenewegen fully cooperated with the investigation and that he has accepted taking part “in a number of events to the benefit of the cycling community.”
Jakobsen revealed on Instagram at the start of this month that his recovery is going well after a series of surgeries, and that he anticipated returning to training on the bike in the coming weeks.
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4 weeks after the reconstruction of my upper and lower jaw it was time for the stitches to come out. The process of healing is going well. The transplanted bone has to grow strong and firm for the next 4 months now. Next surgery is scheduled in 2021. In a couple of weeks my pelvic crest should be healed and strong like before again. From then I can slowly start training on the bike again!
“I follow the news of Fabio’s recovery very closely,” Groenewegen said. “I can only hope that one day he will return completely.
“Closing the disciplinary matter creates clarity,” he continued. “That gives me the opportunity to look ahead again. I am happy about that, even though May 7 is still far away. I am happy with the support I get from Team Jumbo-Visma, my family, and friends. Together we will work towards that day both mentally and physically.”
Groenewegen’s move is not the only marked example of what could be deemed a “dangerous” sprint this season.
Pascal Ackermann scored a beyond-belief win after squeezing up against the barriers at Tirreno-Adriatico in September, while Arnaud Démare snatched one of his four victories at the Giro d’Italia last month off the back of a haphazard acceleration. When neither of these maneuvers caused an accident and neither rider was punished, some called into question how race juries apply rules, and whether it was the results of an action or the actions themselves that took the center of officials’ judgments.
Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) was relegated in a finish-line sprint in stage 11 after shoulder-bumping Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) in the final sprint, a ruling that all but torpedoed his chances of winning the green points jersey at the 2020 Tour de France.
The incident in Poland also raised tensions about the quality of barriers employed at races and the use of extra-fast finishing straights. The UCI said it is working to improve the safety of bunch sprints.
“The UCI emphasizes the importance of acting on any such incidents from a disciplinary point of view in a fair and consistent manner as well as continuously working on measures aimed at improving road safety,” read the UCI’s statement Wednesday.