Wednesday marked a dark day for the cycling world after a horror crash at the opening stage of Tour de Pologne.
Dutch national champion Fabio Jakobsen is in a condition described as “serious but stable” after being the center of a high-speed collision during the final seconds of the race’s sprint finish and is being kept in an induced coma in a hospital in Katowice.
Jumbo-Visma sprinter Dylan Groenewegen has been the focus of angry backlash from team staff, riders and fans, after his wayward line in the downhill sprint boxed out Jakobsen, giving the 23-year-old nowhere to go but into the barriers just meters from the finish line. While Groenewegen crossed the line first, he was later disqualified.
A handful of other riders including Marc Sarreau (Groupama-FDJ), Jasper Philipsen (UAE-Team Emirates) and Eduard Prades (Movistar) also fell heavily after Jakobsen was catapulted into the air and into the line of the bunch gallop. A race official behind the barriers was also caught up in the carnage.
Jakobsen’s veteran Deceuninck-Quick-Step manager Patrick Lefevere has reacted with vitriol toward Groenewegen. Having already posted a furious tweet in the moments after the crash, Lefevere spoke in further depth to the Belgian media Wednesday night.
“I’ve never been so angry,” he told Het Nieuwsblad. “What Groenewegen did is criminal. Those are deliberate assault and battery. You do not do that. I have never seen such a dirty action. That’s an assassination attempt.”
“I am considering going straight to the criminal court. I have no understanding of this.”
Deceuninck-Quick-Step’s GC leader at the race Remco Evenepeoel also rounded on the Jumbo-Visma rider, saying on Twitter “They [the UCI] have to do a lifelong suspension!”
The UCI was quick in releasing an official statement on the incident Wednesday, saying that Groenewegen was being referred to a disciplinary commission, also requesting punishment to be brought against him. Jumbo-Visma has also promised further investigation against its marquee sprinter, promising its own separate internal investigations.
Our thoughts go out to Fabio Jakobsen and other people involved in today’s terrible crash in the Tour of Poland. Crashes like these should not happen.
We offer our sincere apologies and we will discuss internally what has happened before we may make any further statement. #TDP20
— Team Jumbo-Visma cycling (@JumboVismaRoad) August 5, 2020
The sprint finish in Katowice has been used many times by the race, and long drawn criticism from the peloton. The wide, sweeping final stretch is set on a gentle downhill and smooth roads, upping sprint speeds to a fearsome 80kph+, with Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) stating he hit 105kph on his way to victory on the same finale in 2018.
While the majority of fingers are pointed toward Groenewegen as the culprit for Wednesday’s horrific accident, some are questioning the suitability of the closing straight.
“Every year the same silly downhill sprint in the Tour de Pologne,” said CCC-Team’s Simon Geschke. “Every year I ask myself why the organization thinks it’s a good idea. Bunch sprints are dangerous enough, you don’t need a downhill finish with 80kph!”
Every year the same silly downhill sprint in the @Tour_de_Pologne.
Every year i ask myself why the organisation thinks it‘s a good idea. Bunch sprints are dangerous enough, you don’t need a downhill finish with 80kph!@cpacycling
— Simon Geschke (@simongeschke) August 5, 2020
Several top-tier riders reacted in agreement to the German’s words.
Wednesday’s crash marks another dark chapter in the Tour of Poland’s history book. Only hours before Jakobsen and Groenewegen came toward the closing sprint, the day’s racing had gotten underway after a minute’s silence in the Silesian Stadium to mark the anniversary of the death of Bjorg Lambrecht, who died in a crash at the race last year.
Race organizers are yet to confirm whether any special measures will mark Wednesday’s events in the race’s second stage into Zabrze Thursday. However, they did release a statement saying that the race official involved in the crash sustained head injuries but is conscious and stable, adding “We very much wish all the athletes involved in the crash a fast recovery.”
Groupama-FDJ announced that their sprinter Sarreau will not start stage 2 of Tour de Pologne due to torn tendons in his shoulder, while Movistar confirmed that Prades has withdrawn from the race with a fractured cervical vertebra. All other riders involved in the crash are believed to have avoided serious injuries.
Meanwhile, one of Deceuninck-Quick-Step’s key classics talents Yves Lampaert crashed heavily at Wednesday’s Milano-Torino and has broken his collarbone. “I’m okay after my crash today,” Lampaert he said afterward. “Thanks for all the messages! Let’s focus on Fabio and pray everything will turn out okay.”
We here at VeloNews send our thoughts and prayers to Fabio Jakobsen for a speedy recovery.