The top three finishers at Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad – Greg van Avermaet, Peter Sagan and Sep Vanmarcke – may face a fine after taking to a ‘bike path’ alongside a cobbled section during the race, according to UCI commissaire Guy Dobbelaere.
However, he told Sporza that disqualifying the trio from the race would be too harsh a punishment, “because they did not put anyone in danger,” with no spectators nearby on what the Belgian media outlet and Dobbelaere refer to as a ‘bike path’ – one that from the TV images looks as though it is on a footpath shared with pedestrians.
The three riders who would contest the finish, where BMC Racing’s van Avermaet held off Sagan of Bora Hansgorhe to win, with LottoNL-Jumbo’s Vanmarcke third, were shown on TV as part of a group avoiding the cobbles on Karel Martelstraat to ride on the smoother surface alongside.
By the time the chasing group reached the sector in question on Saturday, a commissaire was stationed there meaning those riders had no option but to take on the cobbles, costing them time.
It’s an issue that crops up each year during the Spring Classics season, and one the UCI has attempted to address, with riders warned before Saturday’s race that they could face disqualification for breaking the rules, a point noted on Twitter by Trek-Segafredo’s Edward Theuns.
— Edward Theuns (@EdwardTheuns) February 25, 2017
His team mate Fabio Felline finished fourth, 45 seconds behind the podium finishers, and Trek Segafredo lodged a formal complaint after the race.
Dobbelaere said: "I can certainly understand the criticism. Either everyone does it, or no-one. The pursuers had the misfortune of a commissioner being nearby."
"The brave riders remained on the cobblestones and the ‘bolder’ riders took advantage of the situation to ride on the bike path."
He said that preventing riders from taking advantage of footpaths was one solution, as happens at the Tour of Flanders where barriers are in place.
But he added that current rules weren’t clear. “It's a bit of a gray area. What is a footpath? Do we consider a bike path next to the road as a separate bike path?"
He continued: "Everyone must admit that the strongest three in the race were also the first three in the result. Disqualifying those riders would perhaps have been too heavy a punishment.”
The commissaire noted that other than the first and third groups on the road at the time who tackled the cobbles, the other 10 or so groups at the time took to the footpath.
He added that a report had been sent to the UCI, saying: "The regulations state that riders can be fined if they ride on a separate bike path. A report has been prepared which has been sent to the UCI, who now decide whether or not it will go to the disciplinary committee.”
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.