By BRYCE ADDISON M. PINEDA
The pressure is high. Adrenaline is pumping through his veins as he inches closer and closer towards the finish line. Victory is so close that he can almost feel it in his grasp. Suddenly, these ambitious dreams vanish in an instant as everything around him fades to black.
Dutch cyclist Fabio Jakobsen was put under a medically-induced coma following a near-fatal crash into the barriers while competing in the Tour de Pologne on Aug. 1, 2020. Now, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) is amending its rules and regulations in order to prevent recurrences like this from happening again.
Jakobsen collided with the barriers just before crossing the finish line during Stage 1 of the Tour de Pologne due to another cyclist, Dylan Groenewegen, suddenly swerving in his direction at 50 miles per hour. This accident managed to knock down six other cyclists in the process, with three of them sustaining incapacitating injuries. As Jakobsen hit the barriers, a UCI commissaire broke his fall, fracturing his ribs in the process. Medical professionals had to put Jakobsen under a coma in order to reduce the risks of irreversible brain trauma. Since then, concerned cyclists have been pressuring the UCI to take more action against unsafe conditions during races.
Although it took a while for the UCI to do so, they have implemented new safety measures that further prevented accidents during events through tracking them. One course of action that the UCI is implementing in order to guarantee the utmost safety to its cyclists is further reinforcing its equipment inspections both before and during races.
In light of this accident, the organization is also working with teams and event organizers to assess situations like Jakobsen’s case in order to introduce new sanctions to the rules that aim to uphold safety among all other things for the riders.
Making amendments to the rules in response to this accident shows that the UCI shows accountability and concern for the safety of its contestants because of the affirmative action taken by the organization through enforcing safety precautions more heavily in order to prevent possibly fatal injuries like Jakobsen’s high-speed crash from happening again in the future.
Even though this accident could have been prevented by enforcing stricter regulations beforehand, the UCI is not to blame for the accident as they could not have anticipated that these events would occur. By taking proactive steps in response to this situation, the organization is demonstrating growth and responsibility by continually improving upon the rules to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for the participants.
If the UCI did not take these incidents as seriously as they did, there is a higher chance that more cyclists could get into situations like Jakobsen’s that could have devastating effects on their lives.
Although he had to undergo arduous facial reconstructive surgery in order to rebuild his broken jaw, Jakobsen thankfully recovered from his coma a week after the crash. Despite this, officials claimed that there was a chance that his accident could have led to his untimely death due to the amount of force that he sustained from the devastating crash.
Regarding the incident, Jakobsen was very thankful that the official was there to prevent his head from hitting the concrete.
“If that [commissaire] would not have been there, I would have hit the finish gantry head-first,” Jakobsen said.
Danish cyclist Michael Mørkøv was confident that the Dutch cyclist would return to the sport once he is fully recovered.
“I had recently trained with him and he looks really good. He has a good level. I do not think that it will take long before Fabio Jakobsen is back in the lead,” Mørkøv remarked.
What makes this incident, in particular, so significant is the sheer magnitude of the injuries that it caused. It left six cyclists incapacitated and one cyclist in a life-threatening situation. It also showed the UCI’s competence in providing the best experience to its athletes. The organization could have merely let the incident slide, but they chose to take charge of the situation and think of ways that they could improve upon the conditions of their competitions.
Through organizations stepping up and enforcing new measures that prevent accidents like this from occurring, it lessens the chance for our most beloved athletes from having to step down from their careers.
In Jakobsen’s case, he was very fortunate to have survived the ordeal. Currently, he is still in recovery from the injuries he sustained and he is hopeful about returning to the competitive scene. Though, if the UCI had not done anything in order to improve upon the safety measures of its events, other cyclists might not be as lucky as the Dutch racer.
Safety comes first. Through continuing to improve upon its own rules, the UCI can ensure that its cyclists are able to continue doing what they love with the utmost safety.