Katowice, Poland – Dutch cyclist Fabio Jakobsen was in a coma and fighting for his life on Wednesday after being thrown into and over a barrier at 80 kph in a sickening conclusion to the opening stage of the Tour of Poland.
Footage showed the 23-year-old Jakobsen, riding for Deceuninck-Quick Step, racing elbow-to-elbow with fellow Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen of Jumbo-Visma as both men frantically tussled in a tight sprint to the line in Katowice.
Jakobsen got the worst of it, somersaulting over the barriers before colliding with a photographer after Groenewegen suddenly veered to the right, squeezing his rival into the security wall.
“His condition is very serious. His life is directly threatened,” Tour of Poland doctor Barbara Jerschina told Polsat Sport.
“Unfortunately, it is a serious head and brain injury. He has lost a lot of blood.”
The International Cycling Union, the sport’s governing body, said it strongly condemned the “dangerous behavior” of Groenewegen.
Deceuninck-Quick Step team boss Patrick Lefevere described Groenewegen’s move as a “criminal act”.
“The patient was transported in serious condition, he was placed in a cerebral coma. His condition has stabilized. He has multiple injuries to his head and chest,” said Pawel Gruenpeter, a neurologist at the hospital in Sosnowiec in the south of the country.
“He will be in an intensive care unit and will undergo craniofacial surgery. The intervention of specialists in jaw and plastic surgery will be necessary. The time of the operation will depend on the patient’s state of health,” he told TVP Sport television.
The incident comes a year to the day after the death of 22-year-old Belgian sprinter Bjorg Lambrecht, who died after falling and hitting a concrete structure during the 2019 Tour of Poland.
Groenewegen went on to win the stage but was later disqualified, with Jakobsen declared the winner.
“The UCI, which considers the behavior unacceptable, immediately referred the matter to the disciplinary commission to request the imposition of sanctions commensurate with the seriousness of the facts,” the UCI said.
“I am going to court. These kinds of actions must be outside cycling. It is a criminal act, sir”, tweeted Patrick Lefevere, general manager of the Deceuninck-Quick Step team.
Jumbo-Visma, meanwhile, offered its “sincere apologies” for Groenewegen’s behavior.
“Our hearts go out to Fabio Jakobsen and others involved in today’s terrible crash on the Tour of Poland,” they said.
“Accidents like these should not happen. We sincerely apologize and will discuss internally what happened before we make another statement.”
Others who crashed in the ensuing pile-up included Marc Sarreau of Groupama-FDJ as competitors became entangled in a desperate bid to avoid each other as well as the debris from the destroyed barriers.
“Marc Sarreau suffers an important trauma to the shoulder and also from multiple tearing of the ligaments. He is going to need further medical tests,” his team tweeted.
Damien Touze “remained conscious despite the fall. He is in hospital for further examinations,” his Cofidis team tweeted.
The drama came at the end of the first stage, raced over 198 km from Chorzow to Katowice in southern Poland.
Jakobsen is considered a rising star of the sprint in the peloton who made his name in 2019 with two stage wins on the Vuelta a Espana, one of the sport’s three Grand Tours.
Having turned professional in 2018 with Lefevere’s Quick-Step team, Jakobsen donned the Dutch champion’s jersey in June last year.
In last year’s Tour of Poland he was third on the opening stage.
Groenewegen, 27, is a four-time stage winner on the Tour de France, including the final stage in 2017 on the Champs Elysees in Paris.
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