Wednesday's race saw the dramatic crash of three riders into a traffic island with a street sign, only 44 km from the finish line. There was apparently at that island no signalman, one of those people who stand at obstacles and wave flags to warn the riders.
Belgian television commentator and former rider Jose De Cauwer noted that there was one signalman at the scene, but on the other side of the road. There was no warning of the sign pole.
De Cauwer did not blame the organisation for the problem, telling Het Laatste Nieuws, “You can still put five signalman out, the riders will be crawling everywhere in between.”
However, the signalmen interpreted De Cauwer's comments as criticism of their work, and threatened to strike at the Ronde van Vlaanderen if he does not publicly apologise. They previously made a strike threat in 2007.
“If De Cauwer does not apologise during the broadcast of the E3-Prijs on Saturday, then we will surely strike. Bad luck for the Ronde van Vlaanderen,” John Kesteloot, head signalman, told HLN.
Upon hearing that De Cauwer called Kesteloot to straighten things out. “The man has withdrawn his threat. It's just ridiculous,” he said. “I will not be blackmailed by someone like that.”
Kesteloot saw the outcome differently. “De Cauwer called me, furious. What a noise! But he did not apologise. I assume he will do that on Saturday. I want to hear that he has respect for the signalmen.”
He ended with an additional threat. “I speak for many when I say this. I promise that if De Cauwer doesn't apologise, there will be no signalmen at the Ronde van Vlaanderen.”