The first cyclo-cross World Cup race of the season had a bad start as a TV cameraman was still standing on the course as the riders took off in Plzen, Czech Republic, on Sunday. The cameraman was still filming the riders in the front row, which ended on the left with top favourite Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) and French champion Francis Mourey (FDJ), but UCI officials nevertheless gave the start signal. Riders on the left were blocked while the other riders sped away.
"This is a disgrace for a top level competition," commented Albert, who had to chase hard to come back to the front of the race, eventually finishing eighth. "The cameraman annulled my chances for victory. When something like this happens, then the race has to be stopped."
But UCI officials and race jury did not cancel the start, even though false starts in cyclo-cross races have happened before. According to UCI coordinator Peter Van den Abeele, Albert was right to be furious at the jury chairman Miriam Van Es, who was in charge. "The jury chairman controls the start and the buttons that set the light to green," Van den Abeele told Het Nieuwsblad.
"When she pushed them, she was standing with her back to the peloton and didn't see the cameraman. She should have cancelled the race later. I've done it before in Hooglede. Niels is right to be furious, the jury chairman made a big mistake."
Several riders have announced that they would file suit, but the UCI coordinator said not much could be done. "The race results are now fixed," added Van den Abeele.
On top of this, Albert was held up by a crash soon after the start, where Sven Vanthourenhout (Landbouwkrediet) was left injured. As he crashed, Vanthourenhout hit a pole with his right elbow and had to abandon the race after only a few laps. Having injured tendons and nerves of his elbow, he complained of problems with his hand and will have further tests and scans carried out on Wednesday.
"The only positive thing about this race is that my teammate [Sven Nys - ed.] wins it in great style," the Belgian tweeted.
It is not know for how long Vanthourenhout will be out of competition. This year, he already suffered an open elbow fracture at the Tour of Luxembourg in June.