Eddy Lissens – a former Belgian police officer – was working on the 2020 Tour of Flanders on Sunday as a member of the race jury, riding a motorbike within the race. When road race world champion Julian Alaphilippe – part of the decisive three-man breakaway – crashed into him, the Frenchman's resulting injuries put him out of the race, and suddenly everyone knew Eddy's name.
"The breakaway had built up a lead of more than 20 seconds, and so, together with the Shimano [neutral service] motorbike, I decided to take up a position behind the break," Lissens said, according to Het Laatste Nieuws on Monday morning.
"We let ourselves drop back: the TV motorbike did that on the left side of the road and we chose the right side," he continued. "Should we also have done that on the other side of the road? Anyone who says such a thing has never ridden a race."
One such person was Alaphilippe's Deceuninck-QuickStep boss Patrick Lefevere, who told Sporza that the motorbikes "had no business there" on the right-hand side of the road, and said that they should have been on the outside – on the left – as the road was bending to the right and so the riders would always take the shortest distance via the apex of the bend.
"I didn't do anything unusual," Lissens told Het Laatste Nieuws. "Such things happen 100 times in a race. This was just an unfortunate moment."
Nevertheless, the 64-year-old from Leuven, near Brussels, added: "I felt terrible. I've been doing this for 20 years and nothing like this has ever happened to me."
It appeared from the TV images that Alaphilippe had his left arm up to talk into his team radio just before hitting the motorbike, meaning that perhaps he would have also leaned his head over to the left to speak into the microphone and so not have seen first Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and then Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) flick left to avoid Lissens' slowing 'moto'. It's a theory that appears to hold water.
"Afterwards, I remember seeing that Alaphilippe had been talking into his microphone and could no longer avoid me," Lissens said. "I feel sorry for Alaphilippe. His injuries are bad, but he also had the chance to win the Tour of Flanders, and that's really hit me hard."
Alaphilippe was diagnosed with two broken fingers following the accident, and is set to have surgery on Monday, according to the Belgian media, while Lissens said that he's received a wave of abuse over social media.
"That's affected me very deeply," he admitted. "I feel guilty, even though I can't do anything about it."
As well as apologising to Alaphilippe and sports director Wilfried Peeters on the spot, Lissens said that he also spoke to a Deceuninck-QuickStep representative after the race.
"I spoke to someone from the team and that was a positive conversation," he said. "I certainly can't, and won't, say any more about it. I hope that everything will be all right with Alaphilippe soon."
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