Groenewegen 'sorry' after Tour of Poland crash puts Jakobsen in coma

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Dylan Groenewegen (Photo by Luc Claessen/Getty Images)
Dylan Groenewegen (Photo by Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

Cyclist Dylan Groenewegen on Thursday apologised for causing a crash in the opening stage of the Tour of Poland which left fellow Dutchman Fabio Jakobsen in a coma.

"I think what happened yesterday is terrible. I can't find the words to describe how sorry I am for Fabio and the others who fell or were affected," he wrote on Twitter, a day after the crash.

"I am thinking about him all the time," he said.

Doctors said Jakobsen, of the Deceuninck-Quick Step team, was in a "serious but stable condition".

He underwent a five-hour operation to the head.

"A scan has been carried out and the brain does not appear to have been affected," Pawel Gruenpeter, deputy head of the Sosnowiec hospital where Jakobsen is being treated, told Polish media.

"The main injuries are to the face. Fortunately the eyes have not been affected. The condition is serious but stable," Gruenpeter said.

The doctor also said medical staff would try to wake Jakobsen from his coma on Thursday but a hospital spokesman later said that this process would be "gradual" and not be complete until Friday.

'We feared the worst'

Jakobsen, 23, was thrown into and over a barrier at 80 kilometres (50 miles) an hour as he raced elbow-to-elbow with Groenewegen of Jumbo-Visma in a tight sprint to the line in Katowice in southern Poland.

Groenewegen veered suddenly to the right, squeezing his rival into the security wall. Jakobsen somersaulted over the barriers before colliding with a race official.

Groenewegen went on to win the stage but was later disqualified with Jakobsen declared the winner.

Organiser Czeslaw Lang said in a statement that he was "somewhat relieved" after speaking to doctors.

"After seeing the crash, we feared the worst, but now we know that the situation is serious but stabilised," Lang said.

Lang said that the race official also injured in the accident had "regained consciousness and is now in a stable condition".

Three other cyclists, Damien Touze, Marc Sarreau and Eduard Prades, are also still in hospital.

Criminal act

The incident came 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 on the 2019 Tour of Poland.

Patrick Lefevere, general manager of the Deceuninck-Quick Step team, has called the incident a "criminal act" and said on Thursday that he would file a complaint to Polish police.

"We won't let this drop," he was quoted by Belga news agency as saying.

"It was a very dirty move from Groenewegen... I have watched the sprint dozens of times and I cannot fathom why Groenewegen did that," he said.

On Thursday evening, the Katowice prosecutor's office announced the opening of an investigation into the accident. 

"So far, three witnesses have been questioned, including a representative of the race organisers. During the proceedings, other witnesses will be heard," Beata Ksiazek-Nowicka from the Katowice prosecutor's office told Polish news agency, PAP.

Police have already gathered records of the crash, along with the bikes of the injured riders.

Rising star

Governing body UCI earlier said it "strongly condemns the dangerous behaviour of Dylan Groenewegen" and has referred the incident to a disciplinary panel.

The drama came at the end of the first stage, raced over 198km from Chorzow to Katowice in southern Poland.

Jakobsen is 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 Quick-Step, 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.

On Thursday, world champion Mads Pedersen won the second stage over 151.1km from Opole and Zabrze.

The 24-year-old Trek-Segafredo rider dedicated his victory to the stricken Jakobsen.

"I would first like to offer this victory to Jakobsen after the crash yesterday," the Dane told TVP Sport.

"I am super happy to be able to dedicate it to him, and to his quick recovery, to his return to life, to cycling."

Jakobsen's teammate Davide Ballerini was third, behind Pascal Ackermann of Bora-hansgrohe.

"It was tough for all of us today, as Fabio was in our minds the entire day. He would have been in the mix, I'm sure of that, and with a good chance of taking another win," said Ballerini.

"I really wanted to get a good result for him."

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
After the opening weekend of URC action, what did you make of the South African struggles?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
It exposed the quality of South African rugby...
42% - 1097 votes
There were positives to take
7% - 184 votes
We shouldn't read too much into one weekend
17% - 450 votes
It will take the SA sides time to adjust to the new competition
34% - 905 votes