Dutch cyclist Fabio Jakobsen was in a coma on Wednesday, in “serious” condition, after he was thrown into and over a barrier at 80kph in the conclusion to the opening stage of the Tour de Pologne.
Footage showed 23-year-old Jakobsen, of the 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.
However, Jakobsen came off worst, somersaulting over the barriers before colliding with a photographer after Groenewegen had veered suddenly to the right, squeezing his rival into the security wall.
“His condition is very serious. His life is directly threatened,” Tour de Pologne doctor Barbara Jerschina told Polsat Sport.
“Unfortunately, it is a serious head and brain injury. He has lost a lot of blood,” Jerschina said.
Governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) said they strongly condemned the “dangerous behavior” of Groenewegen.
Deceuninck-Quick-Step team boss Patrick Lefevere described Groenewegen’s move as a “criminal act.”
Later Wednesday, Jakobsen’s condition was described by hospital officials as “serious,” but “stabilized.”
“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 a 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 in last year’s Tour de Pologne.
Groenewegen went on to win the stage, but was later disqualified with the stricken Jakobsen declared the winner.
The UCI said it “strongly condemns the dangerous behavior” of Groenewegen, who sent Jakobsen into the barriers a few meters from the finish, causing a collective crash at the end of the first stage.
“Groenewegen was disqualified from the race by the commissaires’ panel,” the statement said.
“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,” it added.
“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 said it 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 de Pologne,” they said.
“Accidents like these should not happen. We sincerely apologize and will discuss internally what happened before we make another statement,” they added.
Others who crashed in the 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 198km from Chorzow to Katowice in southern Poland.
Jakobsen is considered a rising star of the sprint in the peloton who made his name last year with two stage wins on the Vuelta a Espana, one of the sport’s three Grand Tours.
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