15 riders fined for sidewalk riding at De Panne

Several near misses with spectators raise concerns about safety

Race judges at the Three Days of De Panne fined 15 riders, including stage winner Philippe Gilbert, for riding on footpath and bike paths during the opening stage to Zottegem.

Riders jumped onto the footpath during the lower slopes of the Muur and others took shortcuts via bike paths during the race. Several spectators were almost hit by riders, with a race marshal also avoiding a crash after the riders ignored indications made to warn them of the dangers of a parked car.

Race officials announced that the 15 riders were fined 200 Swiss Francs (185 Euro) for dangerous riding.

Gilbert’s name stood out on the rap sheet after he won the stage with a solo break. It also included Marco Haller, Dries Devenyns, Jasper Buyst, Luke Durbridge, Alex Edmondson, Christoph Pfingsten, Matthias Brandle, Boy van Poppel, Simone Consonni, Alexandre Pichot, Pierre-Luc Perichon, Frederik Backaert, Ole Forfang and Rob Ruijgh.

"We can’t do much, there were too many riders in the wrong,” head UCI commissaire for the race Joel Alies told Het Nieuwsblad.

“We can’t throw all the riders out of the race. However there will be a special communiqué issued which makes it clear that anyone who rides on the footpath will be excluded.”

The UCI has tried to crack down on riders jumping onto footpaths and bike paths to avoid the rougher cobbled roads during key moments of races. The biggest concern is for the safety of spectators and the riders after a series of accidents and injuries, with fairness also a factor. However the technique of finding a shorter line on a corner or a smoother surface has long been used and has made a difference to the outcome of races. The rules are rarely enforced.

Some race organisers position marshals or barriers at key points but riders often ignore them, despite pre-race warnings from the UCI and their teams. So far this spring, UCI judges have decided that disqualifying riders from a race is too harsh a punishment.

Laurenzo Lapage, directeur sportif at Orica-Scott told Het Nieuwsblad that he always warns his riders against using paths during team meeting.

"It's dangerous for the riders and the spectators but when a rider is on the limit, they thinks about things differently. We need a change in mentality," he said.

 

 

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