Dimension Data rider Mekseb Debesay arrived at his team hotel several hours after the conclusion of E3 Harelbeke after becoming lost and disorientated during the final kilometres of his first ever race in Flanders.
According to a report in the Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad, the 24-year-old Eritrean rider got into trouble after pulling out of the race with 20km to go, as Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) prepared their decisive attack. He became lost as he tried to ride to the finish and was helped by a friendly Flemish cycling fan, who invited him to his home, allowed him to shower, gave him some food and eventually called the team’s hotel on Roeselare. Debesay eventually got back to the team hotel at 9pm, four hours after the finish of the race.
“It's an amazing story," Dimension Data directeur sportif Pierre Heynderickx explained. "This was his first race in Flanders. He was behind in a group that decided to take the back roads to Harelbeke with twenty kilometres from the finish. Debesay was afraid of getting lost and so decided to follow the arrows on the race route to get back to the finish. Unfortunately he strayed from the right route. At one time he had 206km on his computer but the race was only 200km long. He didn’t make it to Harelbeke.”
"Eventually he asked a spectator for help, saying: Please, where is Harelbeke? That man suggested they ride together to his home in Lierde. He then let him take a shower, gave him clean clothes and offered our hungry rider something to eat. Of course the team very worried. I had already informed the police, the UCI race judges and the organization but no one had the slightest trace of him. Until suddenly we got a phone call at the Mercure Hotel in Roeselare.”