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Philippe Gilbert and Loïc Vliegen found guilty of assaulting motorist following “dangerous overtake”

The former world champion was also convicted of carrying and using pepper spray during the 2016 training ride altercation, while the driver was convicted of intentionally obstructing traffic

Former world champion Philippe Gilbert and Intermarché-Circus-Wanty pro Loïc Vliegen have been convicted of the assault and battery of a motorist who dangerously close passed them during a 2016 training ride.

The now-retired Gilbert was also found guilty of carrying and using pepper spray, which is banned in Belgium, during the ensuing roadside altercation – during which he fractured his finger – while the driver received his own conviction for the “intentional obstruction of traffic”, Het Nieuwsblad reports.

Gilbert and Vliegen, who were teammates at BMC at the time of the incident, were training alongside an amateur cyclist on the road between Spa and Theux in Belgium in April 2016, as part of the professional pair’s preparations for that month’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège, when they were “dangerously” overtaken by a driver.

According to the cyclists, after verbally and physically expressing their displeasure at the close pass, the motorist slowed to wait for the then-BMC pros before grabbing hold of and steering his vehicle towards Vliegen, throwing the rider into the next lane, where he narrowly avoided a collision with an oncoming driver.

Shortly afterwards, Gilbert and Vliegen then came across the motorist sitting in stationary traffic in Theux. According to eyewitnesses, the riders then initiated a “scuffle” with the two men in the car, resulting in Gilbert using pepper spray on the driver and sustaining a fracture to the middle finger on his left hand.

> Philippe Gilbert training ride altercation – rider could face prosecution for pepper spray

At the time of the incident, Gilvert revealed that he regularly carries pepper spray in his pocket during training rides due to the threat of retaliatory motorists on the road, despite its usage being banned in Belgium and subject to a fine and possible imprisonment.

“A cyclist is absolutely defenceless against others,” the Belgian rider said, justifying his use of the spray.

Both the cyclists and the motorist and car passenger accused each other of being “aggressive” and “intoxicated” in the wake of the confrontation. However, initial reports soon denied that anyone involved in the altercation was drunk, and the claims were not mentioned during the court proceedings.

Despite breaking his finger in three places, five-time monument winner Gilbert still managed to race the following week at the Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne, finishing 81st and 91st respectively.

However, the impact of his injury – which led to further pain in his back due to not being able to sit on the bike properly – ultimately ruled him out of that year’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the classic he won during his all-conquering 2011 season, and the race on which roads Gilbert was riding at the time of the close pass.

> Philippe Gilbert to miss Liège-Bastogne-Liège

On Tuesday, a court in Belgium ruled that the cyclists and the motorist were guilty of assault and battery. Gilbert was also convicted of carrying pepper spray, while the motorist was found guilty of intentionally obstructing traffic for forcing Vliegen into the opposite lane.

Gilbert, who retired from professional cycling at the end of 2022 following a hugely successful career, had initially demanded €450,000 in compensation from the motorist, but was ultimately awarded €500. Vliegen, meanwhile, who will join the Bingoal WB team in 2024 after five seasons with Intermarché, has been awarded €1,000.

Both of the cyclists were also ordered to pay the driver a token fee of €1.

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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5 comments

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IanMK | 7 months ago
3 likes

I like the idea of getting compensation from aggressive motorists. The police are making plenty of money from hard working drivers, on the basis of footage I submit it would be nice to get in on that 😉

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WiznaeMe replied to IanMK | 7 months ago
0 likes

How are the police making money from you? Fines don't go to the police.

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bigwheeler88 | 7 months ago
8 likes

Good to see no more than a symbolic fine for the cyclists but sad to see the motorist get away with what could have been a murder or at least manslaughter. Remember, if the motorist had been driving properly none of this would have happened. No case to answer if you ask me.

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HLaB replied to bigwheeler88 | 7 months ago
3 likes

When I started to read it I was shocked at first as it sounded like Gilbert was facing a more serious charge than the driver.  Then I read onto the symbolic fine and compensation laugh

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fenix | 7 months ago
0 likes

That took a while to come to court?

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