Fabio Jakobsen horror crash - Why are Deceuninck and Jumbo-Visma at each other’s throats again?
The war of words between Jumbo-Visma and Deceuninck-QuickStep over the Tour of Poland crash last August involving Dylan Groenewegen and Fabio Jakobsen has reignited after an interview given by Remco Evenepoel. This latest instalment in the row between the two teams is perhaps the most unedifying yet, with Evenepoel claiming his team will not speak to Groenewegen at races when he returns.
Remco Evenepoel holding up the race number of teammate Fabio Jakobsen as he crosses the finish line in August 2020
Earlier this week, Remco Evenepoel gave an interview to Belgium's Humo Magazine, in which he discussed the likely dynamic between two of the sport’s most talented sprinters when they both return to racing, hopefully later this year.
He was talking of course about Dylan Groenewegen, who rides for Jumbo-Visma, and his own Deceuninck-QuickStep teammate, Fabio Jakobsen.
The two sprinters were involved in a crash that dominated the cycling media for weeks last summer, when Jakobsen was – it appeared – pushed into the barriers lining the finish straight at a stage of the Tour of Poland, by Groenewegen.
Groenewegen was banned for nine months for his part in the crash, while Jakobsen has only just resumed training on his bike after months of painful rehab. He sustained severe facial injuries in the crash.
Evenepoel won a stage of the Tour of Poland after Jakobsen's crash and held up his teammate's number as he crossed the line. Then, in the interview last week, Evenepoel made his views abundantly clear.
“How they get along in future is for them to figure out," he said.
"I don't think Fabio has to talk to Dylan; it's correct to ignore him. I don't think anyone from our team will speak to him. He hurt our teammate and we can't forgive him for that.”
This incendiary quote grabbed headlines immediately, and prompted a response from Jumbo-Visma principal Richard Plugge.
“Evenepoel is part of the problem with his response," he said. "It is better to think carefully before making a statement in the media. He should know that.”
This exchange between Evenepoel and Plugge is only the latest in an unedifying war of words that began in the immediate aftermath of the crash back in August.
"It was a very dirty move from Groenewegen," Deceuninck team boss Patrick Lefevere said at the time. "We have already filed a complaint to the UCI and we will file a complaint to the Polish police, we won't let this drop.”
Whether a criminal complaint has actually been pursued in Poland is unclear, but Plugge this week gave more details about the legal interactions between the teams in recent months.
Tearful Dylan Groenewegen sorry for Tour of Poland crash which put Jakobsen in coma
“Until now, we have only received a notice of liability from Patrick Lefevere. That is a formality. I have no idea what's next. It seems to me mainly an insurance issue," he said.
“Dylan deviated from his line. He's been banned for that and in a normal world you can't be punished twice for the same offence. The consequences for Fabio Jakobsen are not all on Dylan Groenewegen's plate. These also lie with the organiser.”
Indeed the organisers of the Tour of Poland have removed the stage finish where the crash happened from future editions of the race.
They were widely criticised for the nature of the finish – a downhill sprint, which had seen riders raise concerns about its safety in previous years already – with some going so far as to suggest that Groenewegen had been scapegoated for what was actually their failing.
OUR VIEW - Why is Evenepoel stirring things up again?
Regardless of who is at fault and to what degree, it is certainly true that the public response to Groenewegen in the immediate aftermath was beyond all proportion. He told media earlier this year that in the days and weeks after Poland, he was given police protection in the Netherlands after receiving death threats. This is a shocking thing for anyone to have to endure over a mistake they made at their job.
It felt like, with Jakobsen back on his bike, some of the wounds caused by the crash in Katowice were beginning to heal, which is why it is so disheartening to see Evenepoel kicking things off again in a way that feels so – dare we say it – juvenile. Groenewegen has never been anything but remorseful about the crash, and must live with the impact his part in it had on Jakobsen’s career forever. It feels like now is the time to let things lie rather than stir things up again with talk of snubbing and shunning.
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