It’s four overall victories in four stage races for Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) in 2020: the young Belgian star clinched a very special win on Sunday 9th August after five days of racing at the Tour de Pologne. This victory ahead of Jakob Fuglsang (Astana Pro Team) and Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) is already his 14th as a professional rider, and his first in a UCI WorldTour stage race – and it came after an emotional rollercoaster.
The celebrations surrounding the first UCI WorldTour stage race since the return of competition after the Covid-19 pandemic were quickly overshadowed by a dramatic crash at the end of Stage 1. The young Dutch National Champion Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) was the main victim of an incident involving his compatriot Dylan Groenewegen (Team Jumbo-Visma). After suffering injuries to his face and respiratory tracts, Jakobsen underwent surgery and was brought out of an induced coma on Friday 7th, with his team reporting: “The recovery process is expected to be a long and arduous one”.
Other riders – and race officials – sustained injuries during that crash and the cycling community immediately expressed its overwhelming support, mostly centered around the hashtag #ForzaFabio. Groenewegen, who also underwent surgery to repair a broken collarbone, was disqualified from the race and the UCI referred the matter to the Disciplinary Commission.
Fortunately, the following days brought much brighter images to entertain race fans. A rainbow shone in Zabrze as the UCI World Champion Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) sprinted to his first victory of the season, ahead of Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe). A year ago, on the exact same finish, Pedersen had finished 3rd after leading out his teammate John Degenkolb. Now that he’s earned his rainbow stripes, Jasper Stuyven propelled him to the win.
Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s Davide Ballerini finished third on the stage. The “wolfpack” was on the hunt for success to honour Jakobsen. More was to come…
Evenepoel’s emotional win
Stage 3 offered further challenges with hilly roads leading to Biała, but it still wasn’t to be the wolfpack’s day. Winner of the 2019 Giro d’Italia, Richard Carapaz (Team Ineos), showed his excellent condition with a punchy acceleration in the finale. Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) finished second, ahead of Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) but glory was still up for grabs in the following days, with only minimal differences on the overall classification.
Remco Evenepoel is not a man concerned by small differences, and he took matters into his own hands – or more accurately, legs – on Stage 4. At
20 years old, the Belgian prodigy has already shown he is a rider of a different breed, and he went for another extraordinary ride on his way to Bukowina Tatrzańska.
Some 50km (of 152.9km) were still to be covered when he dropped the hammer. The other riders looked around in wonder. How do you react to such a brutal racing move? The answer is still blowing in the Polish wind.
Having already won the Vuelta a Burgos to kick off the second part of his season, Evenepoel took the stage win and the overall lead almost two minutes ahead of Fuglsang. Simon Yates was third ahead of the local star Rafał Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe), who both crossed the line with a deficit of 2’22”. Carapaz, who was wearing the leader's jersey during this stage, made it to the finish despite a crash (16th, +3'21'') but he didn't start on the following day as a precautionary measure, according to his team.
Evenepoel only eased up inside the last 200 metres to hold aloft a dossard with the number 75, Fabio Jakobsen’s number for this Tour de Pologne.
“I wanted to give everything for Fabio”, Evenepoel said after an emotional victory. “The good news we received yesterday about Fabio acted as a big morale-boost and for that reason I wanted to do something today. That’s why in the morning, before the start, I asked for his race number and the moment I had it in my hands I immediately felt something special.”
Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), an expert of long-range masterclasses, could only express his admiration towards his much younger compatriot: “It was supposed to be hot today but it was nice and cool riding in the shadow of Remco Evenepoel.”
The 5th and final stage brought another emotional victory as Ballerini also stepped up for Jakobsen and sprinted to his first UCI WorldTour victory, ahead of Ackermann. For the first time in three participations, the German sprinter didn’t claim a stage win in Poland – although the very dense calendar for the remainder of this unique season should give him many opportunities to raise his arms.
As for Remco Evenepoel, he's headed for Italy, where he'll chase success on the roads of Il Lombardia (August 15), Tirreno-Adriatico (September 7-14) and the Giro d'Italia (October 3-25).