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E3 Saxo Classic apologises after being accused of homophobia in backlash to Wout van Aert cartoon

The cartoon, which joked about the LGBTQ community being "very enthusiastic" about Van Aert winning a cyclocross race with no saddle, caused outrage online and has since been deleted — a statement admitting that it was "misjudged"...

The social media account for Belgian one-day race E3 Saxo Classic has apologised for a "misjudged" cartoon shared, and since deleted, which attracted accusations of homophobia after joking about Wout van Aert winning the men's UCI Cyclocross World Cup round in Benidorm on Sunday despite losing his saddle in a final-lap crash.

E3 Saxo Classic — which has previously had race posters pulled following UCI intervention and been accused of sexism for its promotion of the cobbled one-day race in Flanders — put a statement out this morning apologising for the cartoon, saying it will be discussed internally and "we certainly didn't want to offend anyone here".

The cartoon depicted Van Aert's saddleless Benidorm UCI Cyclocross World Cup victory, the Belgian inadvertently kicking it off his Cervélo after he fell while attempting to remount on the final lap, and was titled: "Wout van Aert crosses the line without a saddle! LGBTQ community very enthusiastic".

Then, in a speech bubble coming from a group of fans depicted with bright-coloured hair and holding a rainbow banner, the so-called punchline of, "About that rainbow jersey from Van der Poel of course" was delivered.

The post attracted much criticism online last night, Anna Mac who shared the cartoon saying "I think it is homophobic" before writing, "There are no openly male gay riders in the pro peloton. Statistically some of them will be gay. This doesn't make it easier for them to be their authentic selves."

Others praised Anna for challenging the post, another reply suggesting it is "a shame that an official race account even thinks that this is a good promo".

A third user called it "outrage-farming nonsense", while another pointed out the race's history for controversial posters to promote its product. In 2015, the UCI stepped in and said it "was extremely unhappy" with a promotional poster, that referenced Peter Sagan pinching a podium girl's bottom after the 2013 race with the words, "Who'll squeeze them in Harelbeke?"

E3 Harelbeke advert 2015.png

 That poster was withdrawn following the UCI's intervention, a sequence of events repeated four years later in 2019 when the race promoted its event using an advert showing two women in bodypaint entwined to form a frog, with the headline, "Who shall crown himself prince in Harelbeke?"

"Our frog has fallen from his throne due to unforeseen circumstances," the race organisers said in a tweet after releasing a new promo poster using a CGI frog instead – although given the reaction to its campaigns in the past, there were doubts about quite how "unforeseen" the UCI's intervention would have been.

> Sick as a frog? E3 BinckBank Classic organisers unveil new poster - and have dig at UCI

Patience was short with E3 Saxo Classic's latest apology too, Dennis Josefsson saying, "I really doubt your apologies are sincere". "You do this literally every year," Martin Smith added, another Twitter user replying: "'Misjudged', what is there to misjudge here? You know what you posted".

And the race's latest online backlash comes just days after it was announced the Women's E3 Saxo Classic, also known as Leiedal Koerse, has been cancelled by the organisers after just two years due to rising organisational costs and low confidence from the sponsors, as well as scheduling conflicts with other races.

The race's press officer Jacques Coussens said at the weekend: "The economic model for women's competitions is sputtering... Organisational costs continue to rise, while the attractiveness for sponsors remains below growth expectations.

2023 E3 Saxo Classic (GCN/Eurosport)

"The board of the Nieuwe Velovrienden, the organiser of the women's race, had examined whether a final edition in 2024 in Bavikhove, together with the juniors, was feasible, but the negative economic model is also at play for this edition. The organiser fears that the last edition would be too loss-making and did not want to end up with a mountain of debt.

"That is why the board of the Nieuwe Velovrienden decided to pull the plug on the Leiedal Koerse women's race due to a lack of long-term perspective on the calendar and a lack of healthy financial prospects."

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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3 comments

Avatar
IanEdward | 6 months ago
3 likes

"“Its funny” “People are snowflakes” “pc brigade”"

Would love to know exactly how many people found it funny, I mean, it's laboured schoolboy humour at best (I'll confess I've sometimes overlooked some pretty broad humour if it's ACTUALLY funny, and yes I realise Anna Mac was listing other people's excuses for it).

Avatar
don simon fbpe | 6 months ago
0 likes

As long as SAXO BANK don't get any free advertising out of the e3 SAXO BANK Classic story, we should be OK.

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Dnnnnnn | 6 months ago
1 like

Ah, E3 at it again... 

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