Paris - The French state railway company has demanded police action against "irresponsible" Paris-Roubaix cycle race riders on Monday who breached a safety barrier seconds before a high speed train hurtled by.
The SNCF company made an official complaint to French
prosecutors saying the action in Sunday's prestigious race had risked a
The last of the riders went through the barrier in
northern France about eight seconds before the TGV train arrived at the
Waller crossing, 87 kilometres (54 miles) from the end of the so called
"Hell of the North" race.
One rider from the Belgian Lotto team was clipped by a barrier as it came down.
Degenkolb, winner of the race famed for its 27 sections of bone-jarring
cobbled roads, was among the group who went through the barrier as it
closed. Race organisers said it had not been possible for the leaders to
stop in time.
"Several riders deliberately, and against all
safety rules, crossed a closed safety barrier," said a SNCF statement
announcing the complaint to French prosecutors.
television viewers saw live this extremely grave and irresponsible
action which could have been tragic," the company added.
"A few seconds later, a TGV ran on this line and could have hit the peloton."
When the last rider had gone through the crossing, a police motorcycle was in place to stop more riders going through.
riders who go through a closed safety crossing are disqualified. But
Guy Dobbelaere, president of the jury of race commissioners, defended
the action of the riders on Sunday.
"It wasn't possible for the leading riders to stop sufficiently safely," said Dobbelaere.
"The peloton was 10 metres away when the barrier started to close."
director Thierry Gouvenou added: "By neutralising the race for a few
moments to not penalise those who stopped, we respected the spirit of
"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," said Gouvenou.
Prudhomme, the director of both Paris-Roubaix and the Tour de France,
seemed to side with the SNCF over the incident, suggesting the riders
should have stopped.
"The SNCF are doing their job, their reaction
is legitimate," said the head of the ASO organisation that runs many of
the biggest races in cycling.
"We will try to make the riders more sensitive to this subject.
were three policemen and a gendarme (at the barriers) but several
riders didn't yield to the gendarme's signal (to stop)."
Further down the road, race officials slowed the leading riders so that those held up by the barrier could catch up.
World cycling's governing body, the UCI, released a statement saying safety must remain paramount.
two extremely worrying incidents that occurred over the past week
during the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country)
and Paris-Roubaix, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) would like to
reiterate that safety should at all times be the number one priority of
all those involved in a cycling race," it said.
"The UCI is
taking both incidents very seriously and has requested that a
comprehensive report on each of them be submitted as soon as possible
for review and potential action. It is everyone's duty to make sure that
our beautiful sport of cycling is not tarnished by incidents that
appear to have been avoidable."
In 2006, three riders were disqualified for going through a closed railway crossing.
three -- Leif Hoste and Peter van Petegem of Belgium and Russian
Vladimir Guseve -- were less than 10 kilometers (six miles) from the
finish and had been disputing top places.