Peter Sagan, Greg Van Avermaet and Sep Vanmarcke could all face a fine for riding on the pavement during Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, according to Sporza. The riders escaped any punishment immediately following the race, despite several riders stating that they’d been informed they would be disqualified if they used bike paths or pavements during cobbled sectors.
"The regulations say that riders can be fined if they ride on a separate bike path. A report has certainly been prepared, which has been sent to the UCI, who now decides whether it will or will not go to the disciplinary committee. That could still get a fine. The names of the riders are not important, it's the principle," UCI commissaire Guy Dobbelaere told Sporza.
The use of pavements and bike paths during races, particularly the cobbled variety, has been a thorn in the side of race officials for many years. They have repeatedly tried to stop riders taking shortcuts and seeking smoother surfaces but have struggled the UCI rules.
Ahead of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, commissaires told riders that they risked being thrown from the race if they either pavements or bike paths. However, TV images clearly showed that the leading group rode on the pavement during the Karel Martelstraat section of cobbled.
As the chasing group went through, a commissaire was stationed on the pavement, forcing the riders to complete the entire sector on the cobbles. While some such as Luke Rowe were a bit more pragmatic about the incident, saying that there would have been no chance to catch the group whether they had used the cobbles or the pavement, many were angered by it. Trek-Segafredo, whose Fabio Felline finished fourth, went to the commissaires immediately after the race to file a complaint.
Despite the protestations, Dobbelaere said that to disqualify the group of riders would have been too harsh. He added that the rule was open to interpretation but he sympathises with those that feel they have been hard done by.
"Everyone must admit that the strongest three in the race were also the first three in the results. To take those riders out for something like that would have perhaps been too much,” said Dobbelaere.
“I can certainly understand the criticism. Either it's either everyone can do it, or nobody. The pursuers had the misfortune that a commissaire was nearby.
"It's a bit of a grey area. What is a footpath? When do we consider a bike path next to the road as a separate bike path? In Flanders there are perhaps hundreds of different types of paths: separated by trees, with a hedge, slightly higher than the road, or just separated by a dotted line.”
Dobbelaere said that the fact that there hadn’t been any spectators on the part of pavement that they used helped their cause. Had there been spectators, they could have faced expulsion.
"Exclusion could when they put others in danger. I believe this was not the case Saturday. There was no crowd there,” he said.