Deceuninck–Quick-Step rider Fabio Jakobsen has spoken extensively of the horrifying effects of his devastating crash at the Tour of Poland.
The Dutch cyclist’s path was blocked by rival Dylan Groenewegen of Jumbo-Visma in the Stage 1 sprint, which led to him colliding with the race barriers as well as a race official close by.
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For those watching the race at the event and on television, it was a gruesome and frightening incident, but Jakobsen is unable to recall the event, saying: "I raced towards the last kilometre right behind my teammates Davide Ballerini and Florian Senechal. That is the last thing I remember. Everything after that is a blank."
Jakobsen explained the reactions from those around him which may have saved his life.
"My teammate Florian put his bike against a fence and rushed to my aid. He saw me lying on the tarmac, surrounded by collapsed barriers. There was blood everywhere. The bystanders did nothing – they were too shocked by the sight of me," he said.
"Florian noticed I was choking in my own blood. I was unable to move, he saw the panic in my eyes. In a reflex he lifted my head a little, so that the blood could pour from my mouth and throat.
The UCI official I crashed into. He stood filming behind a barrier, and he basically acted as a human shock absorber. If he hadn’t been there, I would have hit the finish barrier hard and probably wouldn’t have been here today to tell the tale. [He suffered] a bunch of broken ribs, but on the whole he’s okay.
In the aftermath of the crash and his extensive surgery, Jakobsen found the effects of the drugs extremely disconcerting when combined with his lack of mobility.
“Never before have I suffered like that,” he said. "I’d rather race three Vueltas back-to-back than spend another day in intensive care."
Tearful Dylan Groenewegen sorry for Tour of Poland crash which put Jakobsen in coma
The 24-year-old racer ran through the extensive list of injuries he suffered and some of the difficulties of his recovery:
Brain contusion. Skull fractured. Nose broken. Palate broken and torn. Ten teeth gone. Parts of my upper and lower jaws gone. Cuts in my face. A big cut in my auricle. Broken thumb. Shoulder contusion. Lung contusion. The nerve of my vocal cord took a blow. Heavily bruised buttocks.
"First impact was with my face, then I hit that man with my butt. Which was my luck: I have a rather big butt. That’s also the spot where I got big bedsores in the first week in hospital. I wasn’t able to sit for four weeks."
He also explained that his rehabilitation is far from over and that there is more surgery on the horizon early next year.
"Yeah, it doesn’t look too bad. I still have sort of a harelip where I hit the billboard and my nose looks like I was just in a fight with Mike Tyson. Most of the damage is on the inside. Bone tissue has disappeared, inside it’s all scars," he began.
"There’s eighty stitches in my palate alone. They have taken bone tissue from the pelvis and put it in my jaw. Next February I will undergo surgery again. I get implants in my jaws to reconstruct my teeth. That process will take a while. Next fall I’ll have my teeth again."
Somewhat miraculously, Jakobsen has managed to get back on his bike already, though there is no date for any planned return. Indeed, his return to a cycling career is still far from certain.
He is clear that much of the blame rests with his rival Groenwegen, though he did not appear angry with his rival this long after the events. Jakobsen also points out that his injuries were compounded by the type of equipment used by race organisers.
Sprint / Arrival / Dylan Groenewegen of The Netherlands and Team Jumbo - Visma / Fabio Jakobsen of The Netherlands and Team Deceuninck - Quick-Step
Image credit: Getty Images
"Dylan deviates from his line and closes the door when I pass him. I think everybody saw that," he said.
"I am not open-minded enough to say that he is not to blame. Most of all I feel sorry. Sorry for myself, for him, for our teams. We were the two best Dutch sprinters and among the best in the world. We had been trading places all year: one time he won, the next time it was me. We were both going to the Giro. We had started a duel that could have lasted a long time. Duels like that, that’s what it’s all about in our sport.
"But let me be clear about this: my injuries were also caused by the high speed and the barriers. The barriers didn’t break my fall, they just folded up."
The pair have been in contact, and it seems that there is much work to do for them to repair their relationship, though Jakobsen was quick to acknowledge the suffering on his rival's part, and also the level of criticism that is coming his way for his part in the crash. Groenewegen was banned for nine months over the incident.
"He sent me a message asking how I was,” he said.
"I replied. Quite recently he asked if we could meet. I can understand that this matter is weighing heavily on his soul and that he seeks closure. But I’m not ready for it.
"First, I want to learn more about how my healing process is progressing. The better I feel, the better it is for him. He didn’t want this. And he is taking a lot of crap from anonymous people behind their keyboards – which is ridiculous. I sincerely hope that he can soon do what he is good at – sprinting – and that we can leave all this behind us."