A woman leading the pack of female cyclists in an annual daylong race in Belgium was ordered by competition officials to pull up when she neared the male racers — who had been given a 10-minute head start.
The frustrating near-tangle of the sexes occurred as 27-year-old Swiss cyclist Nicole Hanselmann of the Bigla Pro team came up on the support vehicles for the men 22 miles into the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad race, her team said.
Hanselmann was ordered to stop as the female cyclists were “neutralized,” in race lingo, so that the men could restore an interval ahead of them.
Hanselmann, a former national road champion of Switzerland, had surged into an early lead over the rest of the female competitors of almost two minutes. When the 76-mile race from Ghent to Ninove restarted for the women, Hanselmann was given a head start but soon lost her edge. She finished 74th in the race after the frustrating stop-over.
“It was a bit sad for me because I was in a good mood,” she told Cycling News.
She added that “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.”
She referred in an Instagram post later to the forced delay as “awkward.” She added, “Maybe the other women and me were too fast or the men too slow.”
The race was won by Dutch cyclist Chantal Blaak. The men’s race was won by Czech rider Zdenek Stybar.
People responding to Hanselmann’s Instagram — and on Twitter — complained that she should have been allowed to ride her race and not ordered to stop.