Dutch cyclist Dylan Groenewegen has been suspended for nine months for causing a crash at the Tour of Poland that left compatriot Fabio Jakobsen in a coma, the International Cycling Union (UCI) said Wednesday.
Groenewegen, 27, “collaborated with the investigation and accepted to serve a period of suspension until 7 May 2021,” the UCI said in a statement. He has not ridden since the accident in early August.
Jakobsen spent two days in a coma and required facial reconstruction surgery after he was thrown into and over barriers at the finish of the opening stage of the race in Katowice.
The 24-year-old was racing elbow-to-elbow with Groenewegen at 80 km/h (50mph) before the latter veered suddenly to the right, squeezing his rival of Deceuninck-Quick Step 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.
Jakobsen was left fighting for his life and underwent a five-hour operation immediately after the accident after sustaining severe injuries to the face. He had a second surgery in October to fix his shattered jaw and lost all of his teeth.
“I am very grateful that I am still alive,” Jakobsen had said after his condition improved sufficiently for him to be moved back home to the Netherlands.
Patrick Lefevere, general manager of the Deceuninck-Quick Step team, called the incident a “criminal act” and “a very dirty move from Groenewegen”.
Groenewegen, who had surgery on a fractured collarbone sustained in the fall, apologised on social media and Dutch television, and had been suspended by his Jumbo-Visma team pending a ruling from the UCI.
‘Severity of the consequences unfathomable’ –
“The crash in the first stage of the Tour of Poland will forever be a black page in my career,” he said in a team statement on Wednesday.
“I follow the news of Fabio’s recovery very closely. I can only hope that one day he will return completely.”
Groenewegen added: “Closing the disciplinary matter creates clarity. That gives me the opportunity to look ahead again. I am happy about that, even though May 7th is still far away.”
During the investigation, cycling’s governing body said Groenewegen “acknowledged that he deviated from his line and committed a violation of the UCI regulations”.
On top of his suspension, “the rider also accepted to take part in a number of events to the benefit of the cycling community”, the UCI added.
“The UCI emphasises 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.”
Tour of Poland officials were criticised for organising a downhill sprint finish and the type of barriers used.
“It was a crash where the severity of the consequences was unfathomable,” said Jumbo-Visma doctor Richard Plugge.
“We are relieved that there is now perspective and clarity. We wish Fabio Jakobsen the same. The encouraging reports about his recovery do us good.”
The ill-fated race witnessed another heavy fall on stage three which resulted in French cyclist Mickael Delage being airlifted to hospital.
The Jakobsen 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