Dutch cyclist wakes up from coma after horrific collision

Cyclist Dylan Groenewegen crashes to the ground as a bicycle is flying overhead in a major collision on Aug 5. (AP pic)

WARSAW: Dutch cyclist Fabio Jakobsen has awoken from a medically-induced coma following a horrific crash in the Tour of Poland and will be able to return home soon, race organisers and doctors said on Friday.

“We have good news from the hospital in Sosnowiec! @FabioJakobsen is awake now from the coma. Condition is ‘good’,” the Tour of Poland said on Twitter.

Doctors at the hospital in southern Poland that is treating the 23-year-old rising star said they estimated he could leave the hospital in around two weeks’ time.

“The patient is conscious. He is responding to commands and is breathing unaided. The blood pressure is normal. We are very happy today,” Pawel Gruenpeter, deputy director of the hospital, told reporters.

“If he managed to survive such a big fall, he will surely return to the sport,” he said, in comments shown on Polish television.

Gruenpeter said Jakobsen’s brain function was “all in order” and he would now undergo a period of rehabilitation before his release.

‘I am thinking about him’

Jakobsen was thrown into and over a barrier at 80kph on Wednesday as he raced elbow-to-elbow with fellow Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen in the opening stage of the Tour of Poland in Katowice.

Groenewegen, from the Jumbo-Visma team, 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.

Groenewegen on Thursday apologised saying: “I can’t find the words to describe how sorry I am for Fabio and the others who fell or were affected.

“I am thinking about him all the time,” he wrote.

The Katowice prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into the accident and has already interviewed three witnesses.

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

Very dirty move

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”.

“We won’t let this drop,” he was quoted by Belga news agency as saying on Thursday.

“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.

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 España, 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-Élysées 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 am super happy to be able to dedicate it to him, and to his quick recovery, to his return to life, to cycling,” the Dane told TVP Sport.

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,” said Ballerini.

“I really wanted to get a good result for him.”