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Swiss rider kicked off Tour of Flanders for littering

Michael Schaer was disqualified on Sunday for throwing away a water bottle.

The pack of riders pictured at the Paterberg climb in Kluisbergen.
The pack of riders pictured at the Paterberg climb in Kluisbergen.
Image: David Stockman

SWISS RIDER Michael Schaer was disqualified from the Tour of Flanders on Sunday for throwing away a water bottle under a new rule designed to reduce littering.

“I was still in an emotional state after an incident that had just cost me time,” said the AG2R-Citroen veteran, explaining his offence. 

Although there were few spectators by the roadside, Schaer followed cycling tradition and threw an empty water bottle in the direction of a small group, falling foul of a rule introduced on April 1.

“I threw my water bottle in a place where there were some spectators. By the time I realised my mistake, it was too late to turn back,” he said.

The International Cycling Union has stipulated the creation of ‘litter zones’ every 30-40km to “allow the riders to get rid of their waste in a way that respects the environment.”

In stage races, the first offence draws a 30-second penalty, the next a two minutes penalty and the third disqualification, but in one-day races the offence leads to immediate disqualification. 

On Saturday, American Kyle Murphy became the first rider sanctioned at the GP Indurain in Spain. 

Earlier two riders, Otto Vergaerde and Yevgeniy Fedorov, were disqualified as part of a clampdown on violent riding.

With barely 15km gone, but a break already up the road, Fedorov, who rides for Astana, moved to the front of the chasing pack, upsetting Vergaerde and Lukas Poestlberger of Bora-Hansgrohe as he made his move. 

The shorter Vergaerde of Alpecin accelerated to draw level, directed an angry word at the Kazakh and then ducked a shoulder and swerved into him.

Fedorov responded by accelerating, swerving in front of the Belgian and braking. The race commissioners disqualified both.

“Fedorov wanted me to collaborate to go after the breakaway but I didn’t agree,” Vergaerde told the website of Belgian television station RTBF.

“He reacted and almost dropped me on purpose,” Vergaerde said. 

“I pushed him away and then he wanted to hit me. After that I reacted, keeping my hands on the handlebars. The jury obviously wanted to set an example by putting me out of the race.”

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Alpecin sports director Christophe Roodhoft told Belgian broadcaster Sporza that “Fedorov misbehaved terribly. He intended to crash Otto and Lukas Poestlberger. Otto responded.”

Meanwhile, Denmark’s Kasper Asgreen won the Tour of Flanders cycling classic when Mathieu van der Poel cracked just 50 metres from the line.

The 254km race over 19 cobbled hills ended in a two-way struggle between the pair, and as the final dash intensified the Dutchman had nothing left in the tank. 

Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet, wearing his golden helmet, came third.

It was a dramatic meltdown for defending champion Van der Poel as the Alpecin rider just seemed to give up, realising Asgreen, who was second here in 2019 too, had more strength left.

The Dane was euphoric at the line and his Belgian team Quick-Step celebrated wildly.

© – AFP, 2021

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