The riders in the Tour of Flanders will no longer have to worry about the results being skewed by trains holding up the race at any of the many level crossings that pepper the route: the Belgian train operator Infrabel said today that it would hold the trains for the race, rather than the other way around.
"In tiny Flanders it is nearly impossible to organise a race without crossing the tracks," Infrabel spokesman Thomas Baeken told Het Laatste Nieuws. "The Tour of Flanders has eight level crossings. You shouldn't have to worry about a train upsetting the race in the final 50 kilometers."
The decision will avoid a situation last encountered in 2006 at Paris-Roubaix, when Peter Van Petegem, Vladimir Gusev and Leif Hoste were all disqualified after they ignored the flashing lights warning of an arriving train, and crossed the tracks to chase after eventual race winner Fabian Cancellara with 10km left to race. Other riders including Tom Boonen who slipped through the closed crossing arms after the train had passed were not disqualified, igniting controversy.
Baeken said that holding up the trains for the race would cause minimal delays of only a few minutes, and any damage to their reputation, "would be much greater if one of our trains sabotaged the Tour of Flanders."