Dutch sprinter Dylan Groenewegen said he does not question his level of fitness but the extent of his mental strength and the level of acceptance in the peloton when he returns to racing next week at the Giro d’Italia.
The Jumbo-Visma rider has served a nine-month suspension, which expires the day before the Giro begins on May 8, for causing a harrowing crash at the Tour de Pologne that severely injured Fabio Jakobsen and almost ended his career. Groenewegen addressed a limited number of media on Tuesday about his return to the peloton.
“Some people will respond well to my return, some people may find it difficult that I am riding the Giro. I accept everyone’s emotions," Groenewegen said in a news report by Sporza.
"I have trained well in recent weeks, so my level is really good. The only question is how it will go mentally in a race. How will I react to a peloton? It is always nervous. And how will the peloton react to me?”
The incident took place on August 5, 2020 on the opening stage of the Tour de Pologne, when Groenewegen deviated from his line in a 80 kph sprint finish in Katowice and forced Jakobsen into the barriers, which gave way upon impact. Jakobsen suffered severe facial injuries, was placed in a medically-induced coma, and has gone through multiple surgeries.
Groenewegen was expelled from the race, then suspended from racing by his Jumbo-Visma team. In November, the UCI Disciplinary Commission issued the nine-month suspension, to be served from the date of the incident.
While Groenewegen said he sent messages to Jakobsen during his recovery, he did not receive an immediate response until a recent communication with Jakobsen’s father which then led to a personal meeting.
"The first contact was with his father. I had sent a message to Fabio's father out of interest and received a friendly reply. I thought that was very decent," Groenewegen said, with Sporza confirming the two riders met two weeks ago.
"We sat opposite each other in a small room in Amsterdam. We both got to unburden our hearts a bit. It was a nice conversation, but I prefer to keep the content to myself."
During his suspension, the 27-year-old revealed earlier this year that he was given police protection due to a surge of hate mail and even death threats.
"I accept everyone's emotions. It can't get any worse than the past few months,” he said. "I have spoken a lot with a psychologist. I am prepared for negative reactions."
Groenewegen, who suffered a fractured collarbone in the Pologne crash, was remorseful about the incident, saying a day later once news was made public that Jakobsen was in stable condition at hospital, “I hate what happened yesterday. I can't find the words to describe how sorry I am for Fabio.”
Jakobsen has already returned to racing in 2021, competing in the eight-day Tour of Turkey earlier in April for his Deceuninck-QuickStep team. Groenewegen mentioned this positive news to reporters on Tuesday as part of the total healing process.
''That has now happened, and it is very nice for him and for me. It also makes it a bit easier for him to talk to me," he said in a Wielerflits report. "As sportsmen, we are now looking ahead again."
Jumbo-Visma plans to have Groenewegen support team leader and overall contender George Bennett in the Giro, along with Jos van Emden, Eduardo Affini, David Dekker, Paul Martens, Koen Bouwman and Tobias Fos.
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.