The Belgian rider says the UCI need to disqualify race favourites if they break the rules about riding on bike paths

The UCI commissaires must remain consistent in their application of the rules, says Lotto-Soudal star Tiesj Benoot, after Luke Rowe (Team Sky) was ejected from the Tour of Flanders for riding on a bike path behind spectators, while Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) did not for a similar incident at Amstel Gold Race.

Rowe was disqualified from the Tour of Flanders with 56km to go ahead of the Oude Kwaremont climb, when footage showed him riding behind spectators on a roadside bike path.

The British rider said there was “big flick in the line” of riders and that it was “either crash or go onto the bike path.” Rowe then said he braked safely and pulled back onto the road, entering the Kwaremont at the back of the peloton.

According to UCI regulations the “Use of sidewalks/pavements, paths or cycle paths that do not form part of the course” can be punished with a 200CHF fine and/or disqualification from the race.”

However, the race jury at Amstel Gold Race last Sunday did not punish world champion Sagan for a similar incident in which he cut corner behind spectators, rejoining the peloton mid-way down the pack.

Sagan, who had won Paris-Roubaix just seven days before, went on to finish fourth in the race, which was won by Michael Valgren (Astana).

But speaking to Sporza, Benoot, who rode in support of Tim Wellens at Amstel Gold and competed at the Tour of Flanders, says the UCI must be more consistent in their rulings and that if the favourites of the race break the rules, then they should be removed from the race.

“Rowe gains even less [advantage than Sagan does]. He had to move [off of the road], otherwise he would fall,” Benoot said. “He didn’t have to be taken out of the race.

“Two years ago, there was a lot to do about the cycle paths for the first time,” he added.

“In the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, a leading group with Sagan, [Greg] Van Avermaet and [Sep] Vanmarcke rode on the bike path, but it had been repeated five times that it was forbidden.

“The chasers were not allowed to follow their example and had to ride on the cobblestones. That’s where that lost the race.

Tiesj Benoot (left) at the 2018 Tour of Flanders (Photo : Yuzuru SUNADA)

“If the UCI says it is not allowed and the best riders do it, then you have to get them out of the race. Only then do you make a statement.

“The UCI must be consistent and therein lies the problem. And a video ref may have never been a race, because if you had you would think about the situation with Rowe differently. “

The issue of riders using bike paths is one that has been a consistent point of controversy for some time now. In the Dwars door Vlaanderen this year, the organisers attempted to counteract use of bike paths with barriers placed alongside cobble sectors.

Riders use a cycle path to avoid the Varent cobbles at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

But as recently as Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne in February, riders were seen lined out along a bike path instead of using the cobbles, with the chair of race jury Jacky Botton making his frustration clear at the time saying, “What can you do? Disqualify them all?”

“It makes me really mad,” he said to Het Nieuwsblad in February. “

“My personal opinion is that these UCI rules are simply not applicable in Belgium. What can you do? Disqualify them all? That is impossible without a video referee. And even with a video referee I wouldn’t see everyone.”