News Shorts: Leukemans defends barrier dodging at Paris-Roubaix

Brabantse Pijl reduces use of inflatable arches, De Panne wants WorldTour status, No brakes for Devolder

Leukemans defends barrier dodging at Paris-Roubaix

Wanty-Groupe Gobert rider Björn Leukemans defending his decision to dodge the level crossing barriers in Paris-Roubaix, saying that his actions were wrong but not life-threatening.

The moment came with 85km to go, when the peloton approached the crossing just before a high-speed train approached. Leukemans says the race officials and the first riders in the peloton rode across before the barrier arms rotated down, but that it was difficult to see the warning lights that indicated the crossing was about to close. The Belgian thinks the race organisers should have been able to neutralize the race in advance.

"The peloton arrived at 50kph, the barriers went down and I didn't hear any bells. You can't see red lights at such a moment," Leukemans told Sporza. "Actually, I did something wrong, but at the moment I crossed, it was certainly not life-threatening. It is slightly different for riders who were in the peloton and rode around when the barriers were all the way down. On the images I saw a rider slalom between the barriers. Of course that's playing with fire. "

Leukemans agreed with the decision of the race jury not to penalize the riders who crossed. "It is very difficult to determine who exactly kept riding. You must also put yourselves in our place. We are fully concentrated on the race. In addition, we know that there are no clear rules or procedures in such a situation. "

"You don't know what the jury will decide, if you stop you let that group go. Secondly, if you slam on the brakes, a bunch of riders might crash behind you and some of them will be on the tracks. I don't know whats safest."

Brabantse Pijl eliminates inflatable arches

After several episodes of inflatable arches collapsing on race courses – naturally as soon as the peloton approaches them – organisers of the Brabantse Pijl have decided to do away with as many of them as possible. The only one to remain in the race will be the last kilometer marker at the race to be held this coming Wednesday.

"For security reasons we have decided not to install inflatable arches, except one, on our course," said Pascal Demol of the organising committee, according to the Belga news agency. "Enough people will be positioned there to constantly monitor it."

Collapsing arches at the Tour of Flanders and Scheldeprijs fortunately did not cause any accidents or injuries, but showed the potential for such serious problems.

De Panne wants to move up to WorldTour

The Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde is looking to move up from "HC" to WorldTour status on the UCI racing calendar. "Isn't a cycling country like Belgium not entitled to a stage race in this category," asked race organiser Johan Van Hecke.

"We again received a very positive report from the UCI after our last edition," Van Hecke said, according to Belga. "We want to grow with our competition."

Belgian federation president Tom Van Damme recently suggested that the Scheldeprijs also be upgraded, and "he should defend our case too. We had brilliant winners in recent years. The last in the series was Alexander Kristoff."

Kristoff (Katusha) not only won the Driedaagse De Panne, along with three of the four stages, but also went on to win the Tour of Flanders a few days later.

No breaks for Devolder

Trek Factory Racing's Stijn Devolder crashed out of Paris-Roubaix after crashing in the second of 27 cobbled sectors. Although he abandoned the race in pain, examinations found no fractures, only a large contusion on his right calf muscle.

"We were well positioned at the front of the race going into the second section [sector 26] of cobblestones," Devolder said. "A rider hit the brakes and literally took my back wheel off the ground. I was in terrible pain, screaming for 5-6 minutes from my calf muscle. It's very disappointing that it had to happen this way." 

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