Saturday 20 January 2018

Paris-Roubaix cyclists who swerved around level crossing barriers could face legal action

The barrier halts most of the riders
The barrier halts most of the riders

Tom Cary

The SNCF, France's state-owned railway company, has called for those riders who ignored a level crossing barrier during Sunday's Paris-Roubaix, just seconds before a high-speed train flew past, to be prosecuted.

The incident occurred with around 55 miles of the 151-mile cobbled classic remaining, the barrier splitting the peloton in half and clipping a rider from the Belgian Lotto team.

Several riders decided to risk scooting across the tracks even after the barrier had closed. A police outrider managed to keep the rest at bay.

The SNCF released a statement on Monday calling for police action.

"Several riders deliberately crossed a level crossing, which is against all safety regulations," the statement read.

"Millions of TV viewers were able to watch this unauthorised crossing which was extremely serious and irresponsible, that could have ended in tragedy.

"SNCF has decided to lodge a legal complaint and will leave it up to the investigation to determine who was responsible and we regret that such foolhardiness took place."

According to race rules, riders who cross a railway line when the barriers are closed face disqualification, but Guy Dobbelaere, president of the jury of race commissioners, defended those who opted for that course of action.

"It wasn't possible for the leading riders to stop sufficiently safely," Dobbelaere said after Sunday's race. "The peloton was 10 metres away when the barrier started to close.

"By neutralising the race for a few moments to not penalise those who stopped, we respected the spirit of the rule.

"In theory, those who pass when the barrier is down are thrown out of the race.

"This time, that would have been unjust in respect of those riders who weren't identified.”

Germany's John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) won the race, with Team Sky's Welsh rider Luke Rowe an impressive eighth. Bradley Wiggins, in his final outing as an elite road cyclist, finished 18th.

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