Tour de Pologne named Sports Event of 2020 in Poland, despite Jakobsen incident

Fabio Jakobsen, Dylan Groenwegen and others crashed at high-speed on stage 1 of the Tour de Pologne
Fabio Jakobsen, Dylan Groenwegen and others crashed at high-speed on stage 1 of the Tour de Pologne (Image credit: Getty Images)

The Tour de Pologne has been named Sports Event of the Year in Poland, despite the  2020 edition being overshadowed by a terrible crash on the opening stage. 

The award was part of Poland’s Sports Personality of the Year gala, organised by Poland’s oldest sports newspaper Przegląd Sportowy and the Polsat television network. 

Former CCC Team sports director Piotr Wadecki announced the winner and Agata Lang, vice president of the European Cycling Union and vice president of the race organiser, Lang Team, accepted the award.

"Czesław Lang and his team were among the pioneers. Tour de Pologne took on a challenge of organising the first stage race of WorldTour series after the break caused by the pandemic," reads an article on Przegląd Sportowy’s website. 

"The whole world, not just the cycling world, was watching if the peloton with a few hundred vehicles and thousands of staff could operate in the new reality, full of restrictions and new regulations. They made it, they set an example and gave hope that there is place for sports in this new world order."

The 2020 edition was the first WorldTour stage race after the break enforced by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. However, the racing was overshadowed by the events of stage 1, which saw Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) force Fabio Jakobsen (Deceninck-QuickStep) into the finish line barriers and cause a life-threatening crash, with security barriers flying and multiple riders coming down. 

The Jumbo-Visma sprinter deviated from his line at high speed on a slightly downhill finish in Katowice, a move that got him first fined and expelled from the race, and later suspended for nine months by the UCI’s disciplinary commission. The incident is still under investigation by the prosecutor’s office in Katowice. 

The high-speed downhill finish and the quality of the barriers protecting it have been criticised by multiple professional and ex-professional riders, as well as the riders' union, the CPA. Following this and other dangerous incidents during 2020 season, the UCI has set up a working group dealing with the issue of rider safety and has come up with a series of new protocols, including better barrier standards for bunch sprints.

Czesław Lang, long-time race director, has consistently argued that the race route had been prepared "as safely as it could have been" and pointed to Groenewegen’s "foul" as the main cause of the incident. 

Both race organisers and city officials have confirmed to Cyclingnews that the city of Katowice will feature on the 2021 route, but Lang stressed that different scenarios are being contemplated with regards to the parcours.

As a result of the crash, Jakobsen suffered severe facial injuries, including extensive damage to his jaw and teeth. He was quickly attended to by the medical services on-site before being hospitalised and placed in an induced coma. He regained consciousness two days later and began his recovery, undergoing several reconstructive surgeries in the process.

Poland’s Sports Personality of the Year contest dates back to 1926. Fans first vote online, by text or by post, and rank a top 10 of athletes from a list pre-selected by journalists. A points systems determines the top 10, which is then voted on during the event. This year, footballer Robert Lewandowski received the main award, with tennis player Iga Świątek and ski jumper Kamil Stoch rounding out the top three.

The contest is accompanied by presentations of awards in other categories, not voted on by the general public. These include awards for best coach, best team, and para-athlete. Sports Event of the Year is not a regular feature of the gala; it was last awarded in 2017. The Tour de Pologne has received the award on six previous occasions: 1995, 1996, 2004, 2008, 2011 and 2015.

With the coronavirus pandemic thwarting the plans of many organizers, the Tour de Pologne was the most prominent sports events in Poland in 2020. Other international competitions that took place included the Ski Jumping World Cup in Zakopane, the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships, the World Junior Speed Skating Championships, and the IIHF World Women's U18 Championship.

Deceuninck-QuickStep’s Remco Evenepoel won the general classification of the 2020 Tour de Pologne after a daredevil solo attack on a mountainous stage 4. He fended off Jakob Fuglsang, Simon Yates and Rafał Majka during a 51km move and held Jakobsen’s bib number in the air instead of a victory salute while crossing the finish line.

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