In the sprint finish of the Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne one-day race, Jolien D'hoore (Boels Dolmans) was the first rider over the line. After some deliberation, however, she was relegated for irregular sprinting as the race jury judged she had impeded Lorena Wiebes (Team Sunweb) in the final 100 metres.
"I wanted to anticipate [Lorena Wiebes], not ride her into the barriers. I deviated from my line, yes. Because of that, I was disqualified, end of story," D'hoore wrote in a post to Twitter following the official decision.
The run-in to the sprint was messy as a late attack by D'hoore's teammate Amy Pieters with 1,500 metres to go split the group of 24 riders. Team Sunweb's plan had been for Alison Jackson to lead out Wiebes, but now Jackson had to go after Pieters in order to give Wiebes a chance to win on the finishing straight.
With Wiebes on her wheel, Jackson caught up to Pieters under the 1km banner and continued to push the pace. Wiebes, however, went onto the wheel of Pieters, not wanting to start her sprint too early. Behind Wiebes, Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) and the rest of the group got back in touch, and D'hoore moved up through the wind to slot into place on Wiebes' wheel.
500 metres from the finish, Jackson was still in front and accelerating into a cross-headwind. Pieters swung to the side as she did not want to lead out the sprint for Wiebes. This caused a gap to open behind Jackson. Longo Borghini was the first to start her sprint and go after Jackson, with Wiebes and D'hoore lying in wait behind her.
As Longo Borghini failed to gain ground on Jackson, D'hoore launched herself, with Wiebes reacting a second later. D'hoore quickly closed the gap to Jackson and went around on the right side.
"I had to overtake the rider in front of me, that is why I moved to the middle of the road," D'hoore said. "After that, I moved back towards the left-side barriers because of the wind on the finishing straight. At that point, nobody was beside me, not even beside my back wheel."
However, Wiebes was just behind and winding up her sprint. At the same moment D'hoore decided to move back to the left, Wiebes decided to pass D'hoore on the left side. But the gap to the left of D'hoore closed rapidly, and Wiebes had to briefly ease the pressure on her pedals and steer carefully on the final metres to avoid the railings. Despite this, Wiebes still came across the line only a few centimetres behind D'hoore, and the race jury decided this was enough to relegate D'hoore.
The Belgian sprinter sent out a tweet after the race: "It wasn't my intention to ride Lorena Wiebes into the barriers. I felt her coming and tried to intercept her. If the jury thinks it's too much and DSQ me, then I can only accept the decision. Really disappointed to end my season like this. Congrats Team Sunweb and Lorena."
D'hoore then clarified her word choice with a post on Twitter in her native Flemish: "Maybe it is mistranslated. I wanted to anticipate her, not ride her into the barriers. I deviated from my line, yes. Because of that, I was disqualified, end of story."
Sports director Danny Stam was equally disappointed to miss out on victory like this in the final race for the team sponsors through eight years, Boels Rental and Dolmans Landscaping group.
"We wanted to put the icing on the top today and fought really hard to give the team the farewell they deserved. That wasn't meant to be. Jolien went a little bit too far off her line and the judges made a decision," Stam said in a press statement.
Stam later told Cyclingnews that the team accepted the decision of the jury to relegate D'hoore.
"It was a close sprint, Jolien didn’t stay on her line," Stam said. "In our opinion, it was just in the limit but the jury decided that it was too much. After all the crashes, the jury needs to be more strict and we accept the disqualification."
Despite the current sponsorship agreements running out, the team will continue in 2021 and beyond, racing under the name of new sponsor SD Worx.
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Lukas Knöfler started working in cycling communications in 2013 and has seen the inside of the scene from many angles. Having worked as press officer for teams and races and written for several online and print publications, he has been Cyclingnews’ Women’s WorldTour correspondent since 2018.