While Fabio Jakobsen continued his excellent start to his nascent professional career with victory at the end of an eventful edition of Scheldeprijs, the race will be best remembered for the disqualification of 35 riders for riding through a closing level crossing.
The incident took place midway through the 200km race with television footage showing a group of riders, frantically chasing after crosswinds had fractured the race, riding through the closing level crossing.
The front few riders, including French champion Arnaud Démare, appeared to cross the tracks while the red lights were flashing, while other riders further back in the group ducked under closing barriers before the last few riders came to a halt to let the train pass.
Commissaires quickly took action to pull the group over, disqualifying 35 riders including Démare, Ian Stannard, Tony Martin, and Dylan Groenewegen and leaving just 58 in the peloton at the front of the race.
This is the first such incident since the UCI brought in new punishments for riders caught riding across closing or closed level crossings at the start of the year, building on the existing possibility of disqualification which was introduced after a large number of riders rode across a closing level crossing in the 2015 edition of Paris-Roubaix, prompting legal complaints from French rail company SNCF.
The UCI rules are clear on the subject, stating “It shall be strictly forbidden to cross level crossings when the barrier is down or closing”, saying that riders will risk disqualification and possible legal consequences for breaking the rules.
However from the start of the 2018 season the UCI has had stronger punishments at its disposal, with the UCI Disciplinary Commission being able to impose fines of between 200CHF (£150) and 5,000CHF (£3,700) or suspensions of up to one-month, raising the possibility that the riders involved in the Scheldeprijs incident could face bans from racing.
It is currently unclear if the matter will be referred to the UCI Disciplinary Commission, and if it is then how the Commission will decide on the level of punishment, but with Démare and others already voicing their disagreement with the commissaires’ decision there will likely be appeals against any attempt to impose bans.