Julian Alaphilippe has said that cycling must change in the wake of the crash in the Tour of Poland that left his team-mate Fabio Jakobsen in an induced coma.
Dutch sprinter Jakobsen hit and went over some barriers close to the finish line on stage one of the WorldTour race in Katowice.
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The 23-year-old is in a stable but serious condition in hospital and underwent facial surgery on Wednesday night.
His Deceuninck-Quick-Step team-mate Alaphilippe expressed his sadness and joined the calls to make the sport safer.
Alaphilippe is racing Milan-San Remo this weekend, the race he won in a spectacular close finish in March 2019, and he admitted that he has even more desire to defend his title after Jakobsen’s crash.
“I was very upset when I saw the crash and after that it was very long to wait for news,” the Frenchman said.
“Everybody was in the same situation: waiting. You have to stay calm but you want to know if he’s okay. It was a very emotional moment and now we still continue to wait for some good news.
“For sure, we are always motivated to perform well. But when there is a moment like this, a really bad crash, you have to realise that at the end of the day this can happen in every ride, race or training.
“You have to not think about it too much. But when a bad crash happens and it’s your friend, it really touches you. For sure Fabio is fighting a lot right now and we have to fight to continue, for him also.
“This can happen at any place, any time, it’s a part of cycling. There are some circumstances I cannot talk about because I wasn’t there.
“For the moment my priority is to get some news from Fabio. To pray for him and be focused for San Remo.”
Asked if the UCI and the Professional Cyclists Association (CPA) need to club together and make conditions better, Alaphilippe said: “For sure, there are a lot of things that can be changed, everybody has to be involved in that decision because it’s too much.
“It’s not the first time unfortunately, it’s really bad. I will not talk too much about it but it’s not only the finish line, it’s the other rider. It has to change – the organiser, the CPA, there is for sure a lot of things to do.”
Alaphilippe restarted his season at Strade Bianche last weekend, finishing 24th. His lowly position was a surprise to many, but he believes that he can be in contention this weekend in the first Monument of the season.
He said: “I don’t have to find an excuse [for Strade Bianche]. The heat was experienced by everybody. I’m not surprised with my condition. I feel better and better and it’s a good sign for the next week.
‘We have a really strong team, we will be around Sam [Bennett] for the sprint but you never know with San Remo. We have a really strong team and we will see what happens. Our goal is to win again.”