Riders in the Paris-Roubaix one-day race narrowly averted being hit by a speeding train on Sunday after they decided to squeeze around level crossing barriers.
The barriers went down while the pack was approaching at about 60kph near the northern town of Wallers.
Part of the peloton managed to go through while others stopped, but a few swerved around the barriers seconds before the high-speed train whizzed past, a move that is strictly forbidden under race rules.
“It’s the most beautiful race in the world and we get bothered by a train,” said French champion Arnaud Demare, who almost crashed into the second barrier as he squeezed his way through.
“This needs to be taken care of, it was dangerous. We went through but it was close,” Demare said.
However, the race jury decided not to sanction the riders.
“The peloton were 10m from the barriers when they started to go down,” organizers said in a statement. “The riders in front could not stop in safe conditions. The second part of the peloton stopped.”
“Consequently, the commissaires and the organizers neutralized the first part of the peloton to facilitate a regroupment with the second part of the peloton,” the statement said.
A similar incident occurred last year, but it affected only the eight men in the breakaway.
Seven of them crossed before the barriers went down and Belgian David Boucher was stopped by the commissaires, losing his spot in the leading group.
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