Jumbo-Visma boss Richard Plugge has hit back at Deceuninck-QuickStep rider Remco Evenepoel after the Belgian said his team would snub Dylan Groenewegen upon the sprinter’s return to the peloton.
Evenepoel made the comments in an interview with Humo magazine, saying that he and his teammates would not speak to Groenewegen due to him causing Fabio Jakobsen’s crash at last year’s Tour de Pologne.
Groenewegen is serving a nine-month ban until May 7, while Jakobsen suffered severe facial injuries in the crash in Katowice and is still working his way back to full health after several surgeries and a spell in an artificial coma. Evenepoel himself is working on a return to racing after his Il Lombardia crash, with May’s Giro d’Italia set to be his first race back.
Plugge told Het Laatste Nieuws that Evenepoel is part of the problem and that the 21-year-old should know better before making such comments. Groenewegen reported that he had received death threats after the crash.
“Evenepoel is part of the problem with his response,” Plugge said. “It is better to think carefully before making a statement in the media. He should know that.”
Groenewegen is set to make his return to the peloton at the Tour of Hungary, which starts on May 14, before riding a calendar of smaller races through to the end of the season, including the Tour of Norway, ZLM Tour, and Tour de Wallonie, with WorldTour races the BinckBank Tour and Tour of Guangxi coming later in the season.
Plugge said that Groenewegen and Jakobsen had been in contact, with Groenewegen hoping that his fellow sprinter will be able to make his return soon, having taken part in Deceuninck-QuickStep’s training camp in Spain last month.
“Dylan is looking forward to [Hungary] now,” he said. “He hopes that Fabio Jakobsen can also make his return soon. Dylan and Fabio have already been in contact, but it has not yet come to a conversation. We have to wait for a good time.”
Plugge added that he and his team have yet to receive any news about the lawsuit Patrick Lefevere threatened after the crash. He said that Groenewegen shares blame for the crash with the Tour de Pologne race organisation and noted that they had received no punishment as a result of the crash.
“Until now, we have only received a notice of liability from Patrick Lefevere. That is a formality. I have no idea what’s next. It seems to me mainly an insurance issue,” he said.
“Dylan deviated from his line. He’s been banned for that and in a normal world you can’t be punished twice for the same offence. The consequences for Fabio Jakobsen are not all on Dylan Groenewegen’s plate. These also lie with the organiser.
“The question is whether Patrick Lefevere should not be better off knocking on their door. Now there is no longer going to be a sprint on that finish in Katowice, I understand. That is to say that something was wrong, and it was not safe enough there. But to my knowledge the organisers in Poland have not been punished at all. I find it bitter to see that action is only taken after such an accident.”