L’Équipe has reported that up to twenty riders could be prevented from taking the start of Liège-Bastogne-Liège after environmentalists lodged formal complaints against them for littering during last year’s edition of the race.
According to L’Équipe, Belgian police have already visited a number of team hotels in the Liège area to explain the significance of the matter to some of the riders concerned.
“The inspectors came to the hotel and asked for the phone numbers and addresses of certain riders, indicating to us that this complaint could result in them being prevented from starting on Sunday,” one directeur sportif is quoted as saying.
The complaints stem from members the environmental groups that form part of the “Coalition Nature” in the Walloon region and are focused on the jettisoning of bidons and energy gel wrappers on the course of Liège-Bastogne-Liège last year. The complaints are largely against those among the top thirty finishers of the race for the simple reason that they were the riders who were most visible on television.
“It’s up to the authorities to reveal the names of those responsible for this wild dumping,” one “Coalition Nature” member told L’Équipe. “But if you take the names of the top thirty finishers of Liège-Bastogne-Liège from last year, you could pick out the twenty riders who are the subject of this complaint.”
A similar inquiry was opened in Namur in 2010 after complaints were made against Chris Froome, Blel Kadri and Benjamin Gourge for littering, based on television images from Flèche Wallonne, although no charges ensued.
IAM Cycling veteran Sébastien Hinault had a balanced view of the situation. “Without being an environmentalist, it drives me mad when I see riders throwing bidons and wrappers into the ditch – cycling is a sport that takes place in nature and it’s up to us to give a good image,” Hinault told L’Équipe. “But now I also think that the steps taken by some environmentalists are a bit radical and lacking in dialogue.”