Belgian cycling fans have found a unique way to get closer to their heroes on the roads; place advertising stickers on them as they pass by. Quick Step's Geert Steegmans is not impressed with the practice and has asked the fans to stop.
During the recent E3-prijs Steegmans was hampered on the Taaienberg when a 'VIP' sticker was stuck to his helmet by a spectator. "Never before have I experienced so many slaps on the back," Steegmans told Belgian newspaper, Gazet van Antwerpen. "The people are becoming more and more brutal each year.
"My appeal is clear: 'Don't touch us'," requested the rider. "I understand the euphoria, and contact with the riders is the charm of the sport, but it is dangerous."
Steegmans is hoping that the "real fans" will understand and act against those who attempt to disturb the riders. "Perhaps the real fans have to take the responsibility and take action against the offenders immediately," he suggested. "Because if this continues to happen we will need to get the police involved. If they have to make the climbs a no-go zone, it will be the fans who will become the victims."
The 27 year-old claimed several victories during 2007, the most notable when he stole away a Tour de France stage victory at last year's Grand Tour. The Belgian led out team leader Tom Boonen, who couldn't get around. While Boonen initially thought he had won the stage, it was Steegmans who claimed victory on Stage 2.
Steegmans: a Triskaidekaphobic?
Proving that some riders are still supersticious when it comes to using the number 13, Quick Step's Steegmans has asked the organisers of the Driedaagse de Panne to swap his start number 13 for 19. After a week of bad luck, which included an altercation with a tractor during the Dwars door Vlaanderen and a close call with a spectator in the E3 Prijs, Steegmans has decided not to tempt fate any more than he has too in his build up to the Tour of Flanders.
"Gert has spent too much time on the ground recently," said Quick Step sports director Rik Van Slijcke. "That is why I have asked the organisers if he could use the number 19 in the place of 13."
The number 13 will not be used at all in this year's edition of the race.