Tour of Norway bridge controversy: ‘a mere race incident’

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The 17th round of the Women’s WorldTour, the Ladies Tour of Norway, was fought and won over the weekend, with Marianne Vos (WM3 Pro Cycling) taking the overall win.

This was Vos’ first UCI Women’s WorldTour stage race victory, and for a rider who has won just about everything there is to win in the sport of cycling, this is certainly noteworthy, but the biggest talking point of the four-day stage race actually came on day three.

Two days into the tour, the peloton had already completed a prologue and a road race. Belgian sprinter Jolien D’Hoore was in the yellow leader’s jersey with Vos and Ellen van Dijk (Team Sunweb) nipping at her heels at 2 and 6 seconds down respectively.

The second stage was a 140.4-kilometre stage, and despite a few climbs and strong winds, there was little opportunity for attacks to stick. The peloton had split into two briefly about one hour into the race, but merged back together as the pack was approaching the small closing circuit.

It looked like the peloton was headed into a mass finish when a four-person breakaway consisting of Leah Kirchmann (Team Sunweb), Mieke Kröger (Canyon-SRAM), Rosella Ratto (Cylance Pro Cycling) and Kasia Pawlowska (Boels-Dolmans) slipped away.

They extended their advantage to almost 30 seconds as they hit the final 5-kilometre sign, and if successful, this could result in a big GC shake-up.

But an open bridge forced them to stop, and the peloton was quick to catch up with them. Once the bridge lowered and the barriers re-opened, the race restarted but the breakaway was not awarded their advantage.

The rules were clear, the officials claimed. The lead was less than 30 seconds, and so the peloton would continue all together.

And so the race came down to a bunch sprint with Australian Chloe Hosking (Ale Cipollini), edging out Vos and Van Dijk in the sprint. Still, Vos’ bonus seconds were enough to move her into the yellow jersey and set her up for the overall win with only one stage left.

Had the breakaway been giving its advantage upon restarting the race, we likely could have seen a very different outcome, and there was some debate among the riders.

The Rules

According to the UCI rule book, the race officials made the correct call.

In regards to road crossings, Part II, Chapter three, section 35 states:

“2. One or more riders with more than 30 seconds’ lead on the field are held up at a level crossing and the rest of the field catches up while the gates are still closed. In this case the race shall be neutralised and restarted with the same gaps, once the official vehicles preceding the race have passed; If the lead is less than 30 seconds, the closed level crossing shall be considered a mere race incident.”

Time for a change?

With just 5 kilometres remaining, and on a tight and fast circuit at that, the breakaway had a very good chance of making it stick.

With the four riders in the breakaway all being outside of the top-five in the general classification, we could have seen a pretty good shake-up and perhaps a different outcome in the race altogether.

And even if chasers would have caught the pack upon restarting the race, it would have made for an exciting finish. Remember Tour of Flanders? That breakaway got caught in the very last kilometre of the race and it made for spectacular viewing.

I would propose the following change:

  • If an interruption occurs within the final 10 kilometres of racing, all time gaps are honoured upon restarting the race.

And:

  • If there is a finishing circuit of less than 10 kilometres, no level crossings (that cannot remain opened for the entire duration of the race) should be allowed.

Watch the incident:

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

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