Groenewegen: They should have disqualified the first group as well

The decision of the Scheldeprijs race jury to disqualify 35 riders on Wednesday for passing through a level crossing as the gates were closing was met with annoyance from a number of riders involved, including pre-race favourite Dylan Groenewegen.

The second echelon was chasing flat out at 60kph to try and catch the leading group, which was not far ahead, when the lights at the train crossing began to flash. The UCI tightened its rules in 2016 to call for disqualification for passing a level crossing when any indication of an oncoming train is activated after a similar incident in the 2015 Paris-Roubaix.

Groenewegen asserted that the leaders passed through as the lights began to flash and should have been removed from the race as well.

"We saw the lights flashing at the train crossing. There were about 10 to 15 seconds between us and the first group, and they were riding through it. Then it's hard to say, hey we'll stop because they rode through the flashing lights. Then the jury drove by to take us out of the race. It's a good call but it should've been the case for the first group, too."

His LottoNl-Jumbo teammate Amund Jansen agreed, taking to Twitter to defend his actions. "If I started braking when I realized the railway crossing was closing, I would stop on the railway itself. In a bike race you are simply not that aware of traffic signals. I understand the decision from the jury, but I think the race should be neutralised before the crossing."

Groenewegen debated with the race officials when they came up to the group to stop them and inform them of their disqualification, to no avail.

"I was talking with the jury, telling them the first group rode through the flashing lights as well," Groenewegen said. "They said that they didn't see it. That was their argument. I thought it was quite impressive from them not to see that. I think the jury should pay more attention to that and write down time gaps, otherwise there'll be casualties. If they write down time gaps, they can neutralize the race."

When riding up to the team bus, Groenewegen said that he would never come back here. "No, it's a bit of an annoying race. I've never performed really well here. Today didn't go according to plan either. We'll see next year. I'm disappointed now that the jury didn't apply the same rules to everybody."

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