Advert for the Belgium one-day classic labelled as sexist by critics after it was posted online

The organiser of the E3 Harelbeke classic has courted controversy with its advertisement for the 2015 race, which attempts to poke fun at Peter Sagan’s podium antics from the 2013 editon of that race and at the Tour of Flanders in the same year.

Having finished runner-up to Fabian Cancellara in both instances, the Slovakian, then riding for Cannondale, mimed patting the podium girl on the backside as she congratulated the E3 winner, before pinching podium girl Maja Leye while on stage in Flanders.

Tour of Flanders

Now, the organiser has decided to use the controversial moments as an advertising strategy, but was met by a barage of criticism when the image was posted on social media on Monday morning, being described as ‘misogynistic’ and ‘demeaning’.

The caption on the poster, ‘Wie knijpt ze in Harelbeke’ literally translates to ‘Who squeezes them in Harelbeke?’

Last season Sagan took the top spot in Harelbeke and Niki Terpstra was snapped staring at the podium girl’s bottom as they leant in for the kiss.

Podium006pThe Belgian classic has a history of risqué advertisements, starting in 2011 with Flemish Playboy model Gaëlle Garcia Diaz lying naked girl lying in the grass with cyclists drawn riding up her back.

The advert was deemed ‘too sexy’ and the model was replaced by pictures of Fabian Cancellara, Tom Boonen and Juan Antonio Flecha. In reaction to the controversy, organisers recruited Germaine to be the model and podium girl for the 2012 campaign.


  • DarthDiggler

    For REALS I am so sick of the Political Correctness Watch Dogs.

  • John Senior

    And we wonder why women are under – represented in sport in general and girls don’t want to wear PE kit! If that girl was your daughter is that how you’d want her to make a living – would you be just as cheerful if Sagan was groping her – or if that happened to her in a bus queue would it just be a bit of fun..would you be telling her to lighten up when she said somebody had groped her?
    As far as I know being humiliated and treated like an object aren’t in the job description of any podium girl.
    Get a grip!

  • Rupert the Super Bear

    It’s about choice John. In many parts of the world, women still face massive inequality, violent abuse, trafficking, even death. Their choices are close to non-existent.

    If it’s any comfort, I personally find the ad a bit tasteless, a little anachronistic. But I defend the right of any woman who wants to earn money as a podium girl or as a model – in fact anything a women wants to do. At this level of political correctness in the democratic world, it could be said that the real battle is now between women themselves. Think about this.

    One truth that has to be faced is that there are many women who want to display themselves, want to be seen – even to be exhibitionist – some women (and men) revel in their own beauty. This will never change, it’s just part of what makes everybody different. Ultimately it doesn’t really matter, nobody is hurt.

  • John Westwell

    Not sure what women going topless has to do with podium girls.

    Although women might not be coerced into presenting prizes, surely they are an embarrassing anachronism, especially in races like the Tour of Flanders. On the one hand, the best female riders compete over the cobbled bergs, but then women are expected to be decorative eye candy when the men’s race finishes a few hours later. As Katie says, phase out the podium girls.

  • West Ham, Egg and Chips

    To be honest, as a cycling fan, I’d rather see cycling and the race’s heritage be used to advertise it. It’s a decent race and instead of bigging that up and focusing on the riders, they’re focussing on a borderline tawdry incident instead.

    As a Marketer however, I’ve got to grudgingly give them some kudos here. It’s got people talking about it and got far more coverage than an “acceptable” advert would get.

  • gh

    He’s hiding his semi under the bouquet.

  • Rupert the Super Bear

    I agree Katie. What a disgrace, clearly these women have been coerced into being podium girls. It must be very distressing for them.

    I’m also particularly concerned about those women who parade around topless on European beaches – obviously this is the fault of men too.

  • Katie Puplett

    Yet again the dinosaurs of the cycling world choose the sexual objectification of women to promote their sport. I love cycling. The endurance, tenacity and skill of the sportsmen and women that compete should be celebrated not this! I am continually abhorred that podium girls continued be used to present the men’s prizes. I know it goes on in other sports and I wish it didn’t. Having spoken to some professional cyclists they agree they would rather have their prize presented to them by a legend in the sport, why do the UCI think it’s still OK to use women like this??

  • David Bassett

    Niki Terpstra was snapped staring at the podium girl’s
    bottom, what a professional Gerent is just looking straight ahead.

  • Julian Dean

    I hope they get to the bottom of this.

  • Rimi Käikkönen

    people need to lighten up! seriously

  • piskian

    Belgium seems to have no problems with gluteal intolerance,it seems.