Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne level-crossing expulsion questioned

Edwig Cammaerts (Landbouwkrediet) has claimed that the decision of the race commissaires to exclude him and his breakaway companions from Sunday's Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne was overly harsh. The Belgian was part of a four-man escape that was pulled from the race after they rode through a level crossing after the lights had turned red, but he insisted that it would have been more dangerous for them to stop in the circumstances.

“The lights had just turned red and we got there at 50kph,” Cammaerts told RTBF.be. “The barriers hadn’t been lowered and if we had braked it would have been a guaranteed crash, and maybe we might have fallen on the rails.”

Cammaerts and his breakaway companions Arnaud Coyot (Saur-Sojasun), Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Cervelo) and Arnoud van Groen (Veranda's Willems-Accent) had a lead of over seven minutes when they were expelled from the race in an episode that recalled the finale of the 2006 edition of Paris-Roubaix.

On that occasion, Leif Hoste, Peter Van Petegem and Vladimir Gusev rode through a closed level-crossing in pursuit of winner Fabian Cancellara. Although they crossed the finish line in second, third and fourth place, the trio were subsequently removed from the official results.

Cammaerts directeur sportif Gérard Bulens supported his rider’s claims and said that the commissaires could have shown a degree of clemency in dealing with the matter.

“I believe Edwig when he tells me that if he had braked, he would have crashed or fallen on the rails,” Bulens said. “I recognize that the rule is also there to protect the riders, but it needs to be seen whether the rule ought to be applied in all cases.”

However, commissaire Jean-Pierre Coppenolle rebutted the claims of the Landbouwkrediet camp, and pointed out that the leading group had broken a longstanding rule that was designed with the riders’ safety in mind.

“I think that they say the light turn red,” he told RTBF.be. “It’s true they weren’t that far away, but in the end there were cars and motorcyclists there to warn them.

“They made no effort to stop. On the contrary, they accelerated. Three or four seconds afterward, the barriers were lowered and the train came by very quickly. They risked their lives.”

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Barry Ryan
Head of Features

Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.