Wout van Aert: ‘Dylan Groenewegen made a big mistake but it was painful to see the reaction to him’

After winning Milan - San Remo, the Belgian made a partial defence of his team-mate, who is currently suspended by Jumbo-Visma pending UCI disciplinary proceedings

Wout van Aert admitted his team-mate Dylan Groenewegen made a mistake for his part in the crash which hospitalised Fabio Jakobsen, but added that the reaction that met the sprinter following the race was “painful” to watch.

Fabio Jakobsen was brought out of his coma on Friday, yet remains in a serious condition, while Groenewegen suffered a broken collarbone and has been suspended by Jumbo-Visma pending UCI disciplinary proceedings.

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“Of course we were not in that race, so it’s not necessary and hard to judge what happened there,” Van Aert said when asked about the incident in the winner’s press conference following Milan – San Remo. “I think when we were driving back from Milano-Torino last Wednesday the atmosphere in the bus was not good. We all know Dylan personally and we felt bad for him because we know he is a good guy.

“He made a big mistake but of course it was painful to see what the reaction was, and at the start we were just worried about Fabio and I was quite surprised the focus wasn’t on the fact he was in danger.

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“All the rest had to wait in my opinion and it was quite strange to already be talking about who is guilty. We were more following the news of Fabio, he’s one of the cycling family and we know this job has a lot of risk and we all know that one day we all have the chance to have a hard crash like that. We were relieved when there was some positive news, so that was more what we were focused on.”

When asked about whether the incident had impact the team’s race or preparation in the lead-up to Milan – San Remo, Van Aert says that when the race starts you pin on your number and “know we have to take risks again and go for it”.

“We were in a winning mood and we tried to focus on that. Once the race started we didnt think any more about it. It’s hard to say, it’s how life is, in the race it doesn’t play a role for me. Once we have a number on we know we have to take risks again and go for it.”

While Julian Alaphilippe finished second to Van Aert, his Deceuninck – Quick-Step team-mate won the queen stage of the Tour of Poland, holding up a number 75 as he crossed the finish line, the number Jakobsen wore in the race on stage one.