Team Bikeexchange-Jayco team's Dutch rider Dylan Groenewegen (R) celebrates his victory flanked by second placed Jumbo-Visma team's Belgian rider Wout Van Aert (C) and Alpecin-Deceuninck team's Belgian rider Jasper Philipsen as they crosses to the finish line of the 3rd stage of the 109th edition of the Tour de France cycling race, 182 km between Vejle and Sonderborg in Denmark, on July 3, 2022. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP)

First Fabio Jakobsen wrote his personal fairy tale, then his arch-rival Dylan Groenewegen triumphed. The Danish weekend party at the Tour de France was dominated by two main actors who created one of the greatest cycling dramas in history just under two years ago. Jakobsen, who was fighting for his life at the time, celebrated the greatest triumph of his career in Nyborg, and 24 hours later Groenewegen won in Sønderborg.

“It was a long way. I can only thank my team, my family and my friends. It was a tough time mentally, after everything that happened,” said Groenewegen. At the beginning of August 2020, the Dutchman pushed his compatriot Jakobsen into the barriers in a sprint at 80 kilometers per hour during the Tour of Poland. He was then considered persona non grata for a long time and was banned for several months.

The overall leader’s yellow jersey will be taken by Belgium’s Wout van Aert, who is once again second, to northern France where the Tour will resume after Tuesday’s transfer. Defending champion Tadej Pogacar, who injured his hand slightly in a mass fall on Saturday, is in a comfortable starting position, but has a few seconds advantage over his main challengers Primoz Roglic and Jonas Vingegaard. The German stage hunters Lennard Kämna, Nils Politt and Maximilian Schachmann will still get their chances.

For the time being, the headlines belong to Jakobsen and Groenewegen. With the stage win on Saturday, Jakobsen had already achieved something that no one would have believed him capable of a good two years ago. After all, he narrowly escaped death on that fateful day in Poland. “You can think it’s a miracle. It’s definitely a special story. Almost a fairy tale,” said Jakobsen almost 700 days later as the Tour stage winner.

The professional from Team QuickStep-AlphaVinyl was in an artificial coma, underwent umpteen operations, and his shattered face alone required 130 stitches. Today he only has a jaw because the doctors reshaped it from parts of his pelvic bone. “I hope my victory made a lot of people happy at home,” said the 25-year-old. His fiancee, his sister, his parents and his team gave him the strength to get through his ordeal.

Jakobsen’s success also silenced critics who would rather have seen his British team-mate Mark Cavendish than him on the Tour. After all, the 37-year-old could have celebrated his 35th stage win and thus a record with a day win on this year’s tour. But team boss Patrick Lefevere had other plans. “I am old and wise and the winner is always right. So right now I’m right,” Lefevere said, adding, “I don’t have to justify myself to people who aren’t smart enough to understand some things.”