BELGIUM — A breakaway female cyclist was forced to stop during a prestigious race in Belgium after she started to catch up with the men’s competition, which had started 10 minutes earlier.
Swiss cyclist Nicole Hanselmann described it as an “awkward moment” when she was held up in Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad race after she broke away from the women’s pack and caught up with the men’s support vehicles.
She had developed a two-minute lead 30 kilometers (18 miles) into the 120-kilometer (75-mile) race when officials asked the 27-year old former Switzerland road champion — and the women’s race — to stop at a level crossing until the gap with the men’s race was restored.
The racing event’s official Twitter account reported the “neutralization of our women race at railroad crossing in Sint-Denijs-Boekel… due to a very slow mens race.”
Hanselmann was permitted to resume after a five-minute pause, but ended up finishing 74th. She said the interruption had ruined her momentum.
“Today was the first spring classic in Belgium,” she wrote in an Instagram post hashtagged “womenpower.”
“I attacked after 7km, and was alone in the break for around 30km… but then an awkward moment happened and I almost saw the back of the men’s peloton… May (be) the other women and me were too fast or the men to (sic) slow.
“After the neutralization, I was caught up again and finished the race on the 74th place.”
She told Cycling News that “it was a bit sad for me because I was in a good mood, and when the bunch sees you stopping they just get a new motivation to catch you.”
“We could just see the ambulances of the men’s race. I think we stopped for five or seven minutes and then it just kills your chances.”
The cycling publication described Hanselmann’s surge to the front as “a brave solo move” for which the race organizers were unprepared.
Comments posted on her Instagram account were broadly supportive.
“Sexist, they should not have done that to you,” said paws448844.
Phmcody said: “It’s really too bad they stopped your momentum but I can see that you were the champion for the day. Keep strong. ”
The annual race around the Ardennes kicks off the Belgian cycling season and is one of the prominent Flanders Classics.