French national champion Arnaud Démare and a number of other riders have expressed their disagreement with the decision to disqualify a large group of riders after they rode through a closing level crossing at Wednesday’s Scheldeprijs race.
Commissaires immediately disqualified a large group of riders for going through the level crossing, with video footage appearing the leading riders, including Démare, travelling across the railway while the red lights were flashing before other riders continued to ride through while the barriers came down.
Taking to Twitter after commissaires had thrown him off the race, Démare wrote: “I absolutely do not endorse the jury’s decision. I could not have guessed that the light would go red while I was crossing the rails. I know the consequences following a summons to the Valenciennes police station at Paris-Roubaix in 2014.”
Démare was one of a number of riders on the end of a complaint by French rail operator SNCF after a large number of riders went through a closed level crossing during Paris-Roubaix in 2015 (the Frenchman being one year out with his dates).
The UCI rules are clear on the subject of level crossings, saying that “it shall be strictly forbidden to cross level crossings when the barrier is down or closing, the warning signal ringing or flashing”.
However Démare received support from a number of other riders, with Astana’s Hugo Houle saying: “I am 100% in agreement with Arnaud Démare. It’s impossible to stop in an echelon that’s travelling at 60kmh”, while Groupama-FDJ team-mate Mickaël Delage, who was not in the race, suggested that Démare should become a psychic in the future but that his crystal ball may weigh down his luggage.
Amund Grøndahl Jansen, another rider to be disqualified by the Scheldeprijs commissaires, took a slightly different view, saying that he understood the race jury’s decision but that the race should have been neutralised ahead of the railway crossing.
Unfortunately for the riders, the UCI has recently introduced stronger penalties for those who ride through closing level crossings. From the start of this year riders not only risk the previous penalties of disqualification and possible legal consequences, but could also face a fine of up to 5,000 CHF (£3,700) and a possible one-month suspension.