Deceuninck-QuickStep are pushing ahead with legal action against Dylan Groenewegen after the Jumbo-Visma sprinter's nine-month suspension for his part in the Tour de Pologne crash which left Fabio Jakobsen in hospital with serious face injuries.
The pair came together during the sprint finish in Katowice, with Groenewegen veering off line and Jakobsen crashing at high speed into the barriers. Jakobsen is only now considering a return to training, while Groenewegen's ban – which will run until May 7, 2021 – was confirmed earlier this week by the UCI.
Interviewed on Friday by Het Laatste Nieuws, Deceuninck-QuickStep boss Patrick Lefevere confirmed that legal action, in conjunction with insurer Europ Assistance, will go ahead in the Polish courts.
"We don't know when the case will occur," Lefevere said. "As with most legal matter, it will be something of the longer-term perspective."
There could also be a second legal case, with Jakobsen filing one of his own in the Netherlands, reported Het Laatste Nieuws. Both cases would centre on the damages caused by the crash.
Lefevere said he accepted the UCI's decision to ban Groenewegen for nine months – an unprecedented punishment for a non-doping offence – but said that he wants to stop talking about the crash.
"I don't feel like talking about it anymore," he said. "Not because I'm afraid of the reaction but simply because it has been enough. As a team we didn't have any influence on [the ban] anyway."
In the wake of the accident, as well as the crashes suffered by Remco Evenepoel at Il Lombardia and Steven Kruijwsijk at the Critérium du Dauphiné, Lefevere and Jumbo-Visma boss Richard Plugge had raised the possibility of teams funding an independent safety organisation that would check safety measures at races.
He said that more and more stakeholders came to the table to discuss safety, with the UCI announcing tightened safety checks at the end of August. Lefevere is still in favour of independent safety experts even if UCI president David Lappartient has played down the idea.
"At the moment, committees are formed per theme. I hope things move faster from now on. At the start of the European season at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, there must be a concrete plan on the table.
"I want independent experts to judge [sprints]. I propose that we make the dirtiest sprinter in history head of the body – the best rangers have often been poachers first. The experts have to come from the peloton because anyone who has never ridden a bicycle cannot judge what is dangerous and what is not.
"There are many nuances. A push with the shoulder is not always dangerous, an elbow to the arm is more dangerous than an elbow to the buttock. Rule number one must be that a rider keeps his hands on the handlebars at all times."
Lefevere also proposed training of the 'VAR' video judges, safer barriers, and better warning systems for dangerous corners and traffic-calming devices, which can sometimes be left un-signaled as Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) found out with his season-ending crash at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
As for Jakobsen, who last underwent surgery in October as a section of pelvic bone was used to reconstruct his jaw, Lefevere said that his sprinter is optimistic about the future. He'll be back on the bike later this month but a return to racing could be on hold until May.
"I was especially shocked by his optimism. He's competitive, wants to return and he's not afraid," Lefevere said.
"His jaw now has to heal for three months before implanting can be done and then it'll take another three months for new teeth to be placed. Then we'll be at the start of May. Maybe he can race without teeth before then.
"I'm not a specialist but his breathing and vocal cords seem to be heading in the right direction. Fabio has a lot of scars on his face – he won't be Elvis Presley anymore, but knowing where he has come from it's an after thought."
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