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Racing at Dwars door Vlaanderen was temporarily neutralized as the men’s and women’s fields came too close to each other on their journeys to Waregem.
Just a month after a similar situation at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, where the women’s peloton was neutralized to avoid a merger of fields, the men’s race at Dwars was halted when the breakaway came close to connecting with the women’s race.
Two big crashes, both requiring ambulances, befell the women’s peloton on their 108-kilometer journey from Tielt to Waregem. That set up the possibility of the men’s breakaway coming into contact with the medical staff addressing injured riders from the women’s race some 107 kilometers into the men’s 180-kilometer trek from Roeselare to Waregem.
To prevent additional chaos, officials stopped the men’s breakaway, but the men’s peloton only got the memo after overtaking the break. Organizers then waited for the medical professionals to do their work and for the women to rebuild enough of an advantage, and then had to sort out which of the men’s would be allowed to restart to return the race to its pre-neutralization state.
“Always in a race, anyone who is injured, or when ambulances are coming into the race, they always have priority over the race,” race director Scott Sunderland said. “That meant we needed to try and slow the men’s race down, and then to neutralize it, just briefly for a few minutes so we could clear any difficult moments or what was happening with the race so that the ambulances could get away to the hospitals.”
When the men did resume riding, the breakaway was missing Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe), who had somehow been left behind. The Austrian grabbed a tow from a media motorbike to rejoin the leaders, and conducted an impromptu, questionably legal interview along the way.
From there, the race resumed without further incident. Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo) went on to win the women’s event, with Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) taking the men’s race.
Sunderland said that organizers will assess the incident – the second time just this year that officials have had to stop a race to prevent a merger of fields – to see what can be learned, but also said that running the men’s and women’s races on the same day comes with advantages.
“We’re always looking at equality, we’re looking at developing women’s racing,” he said. “The women’s teams and riders do like to race on the day of the men’s [race], of course, because there’s always a lot more crowds, a lot more press as you guys are here for the men’s anyway. That gives them opportunities to enjoy what the men are getting.”