A promising young Belgian cyclist, 19-year-old Stef Loos, was killed in a collision with a van during an elite race in Belgium on Sunday after he and two other riders mistakenly went off course.
According to hln.be, Loos, his Acrog-Pauwelssauzen-Balen teammate Jonas Bresseleers, and Ruben Apers of the Lotto Soudal under-23 team were behind the front of the race when they went straight on at a junction where they should have taken a right turn during the Mémorial Alfred Gadenne elite amateur race in Melles, near Tournai in western Belgium, close to the French border.
Further on – after racing for a further 1.5km off course – they were hit by a van, with all three riders suffering injuries and subsequently taken to hospitals in nearby Tournai and Ronse. Loos later died of his injuries.
Talking on Belgian radio, according to hln.be, Bresseleers said that he felt guilty for having gone the wrong way, but couldn't remember seeing anything in terms of signage or marshals.
"At the decisive junction, I was leading the group and Stef was on my wheel," Bresseleers said. "Had I not gone the wrong way, it might never have happened. They said afterwards that we were no longer on the course because a marshal had sent us the wrong way or was no longer there. But we didn't realise. We still thought that we were chasing the two groups ahead of us.
"It's possible that a marshal made a mistake, but that's rare. I don't even know where we left the course, so I can't say if there was a marshal. I really thought I was still on the course," he said.
However, race director Gérard Verbrugghe told hln.be that the police had told him ahead of the event that a marshal wasn't necessary at the junction where the course turned right.
"After all, that was not a point where cars threatened to cross, since the riders had to turn right," he said, with traffic in Belgium driving/riding on the right-hand side of the road. "So we didn't put anyone there. 182 marshals were needed for the entire race."
Frédéric Bariseau, of the public prosecutor's office in Tournai, told hln.be that the lack of a marshal at the intersection would now be investigated.
"There were arrows pointing in the right direction, but maybe that wasn't enough. It must also be clarified why the group of riders in question did not stop when it was indicated that they had gone the wrong way. It is still too early to appoint a person responsible for the accident," Bariseau said.
"The cycling community in Belgium suffered a devastating loss with the passing of Stef Loos," the Belgian cycling federation posted on Twitter. "The thoughts of everyone at Belgian Cycling are with his family, friends and teammates at this sad time.
The cycling community in Belgium suffered a devastating loss with the passing of Stef Loos. The thoughts of everyone at Belgian Cycling are with his family, friends and team-mates at this sad time. pic.twitter.com/1E6GO0SX20— Belgian Cycling (@BELCycling) March 18, 2019