The UCI have fined 15 riders for riding on the pavement at the first stage of Three Days of De Panne.
Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) won the cobbled race after attacking on the Muur van Geraardsbergen and soloing to victory, but the process of his triumph involved avoiding the cobbles and riding on the pavement, a topic of controversy throughout the spring.
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The issue in question happened 38 kilometres from the finish and just before the second ascent of the Berendries.
Gilbert, with 14 companions, shunned the cobbles for the sidewalk, despite the danger of parked cars and a marshal waving them off the walkway and back onto the road.
At the opening cobbled classic at the end of February, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Greg Van Avermaet, Peter Sagan and Sep Vanmarcke caused outrage by riding on the pavement, which, according to the UCI rules, can result in elimination. At Le Samyn, organisers even put up barriers to prevent riding on the pavement.
Now, though, the UCI appear to want to make a stance that they will be firmer on riders who flout the rules, imposing a fine of 200 Swiss Francs on all 15 riders who were involved in yesterday’s actions. It includes Gilbert, eventual second-placed finisher Luke Durbridge (Orica-Scott) and third-placed Simone Consonni (UAE Team Emirates).
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The UCI “hope this will give a signal” to riders that they will be punished for indiscretions, but the fine could still be construed as lenient considering the official ruling is that using the pavement is forbidden and that it carries with in the penalisation of elimination and a fine.
Its rule state: “It is strictly forbidden to use sidewalks/pavements, paths or cycle paths that do not form part of the course (i.e. those separated by kerbs, verges, level changes or other physical features) if a dangerous situation is created inter alia for other riders, spectators or race personnel by such action or if such action procures a significant advantage over other riders.”
It adds that “wilful deviation from the course” should result in elimination and a fine of 200 Swiss Frances, while “use of sidewalks/pavements, paths or cycle paths” is also the same punishment.
With two days left of De Panne, and with the Tour of Flanders coming up on Sunday, the UCI will be hoping that this fine will act as a deterrent.