French train firm complains after cyclists ignore level crossing

Riders narrowly miss oncoming high-speed train after peloton splits at a barrier

The French railway company SNCF has filed a formal complaint to police after many riders in the peloton of the Paris-Roubaix one-day classic ignored barriers at a level crossing and rode through, while a high-speed train approached.

In a statement, SNCF said: “Several riders deliberately crossed a level crossing, which is against all safety regulations. Millions of TV viewers were able to watch this unauthorised crossing which was extremely serious and irresponsible, that could have ended in tragedy.

“SNCF has decided to lodge a legal complaint and will leave it up to the investigation to determine who was responsible and we regret that such foolhardiness took place.”

According to the race rules, crossing when barriers are lowered is “strictly forbidden” and riders doing so face disqualification, but Guy Dobbelaere, president of the jury of race commissioners, said: “It wasn’t possible for the leading riders to stop sufficiently safely. The peloton was 10 metres away when the barrier started to close. By neutralising the race for a few moments to not penalise those who stopped, we respected the spirit of the rule.”


After the incident, the peloton regrouped, allowing riders caught behind the barriers to catch up. The race was won by Germany’s John Degenkolb.

Disaster was narrowly averted at the one day classic race, after several cyclists rode around the barriers at a level crossing, missing an oncoming train by seconds.

The peloton were separated in the incident, which saw riders bunched behind the barriers waiting for the train to pass. Some cyclists, including French champion Arnaud Démare, chose to risk going around the barriers in an effort to keep up with those that had already crossed.

The one-day road race, which runs from Compiègne, 50 miles outside Paris, to the northern town of Roubaix, is renowned for its uncompromising route, which includes cobbled sections and level crossings. Despite this, the peloton appeared to be caught off guard at the crossing close to the town of Wallers in northeastern France, with a number of riders struck by the falling barrier.

The peloton regrouped after the incident, allowing riders caught behind the barriers to catch up.

Those who did make their way over the level crossing after the barriers came down could ultimately be disqualified from the race. Britain’s Geraint Thomas avoided the incident, only to suffer a puncture moments later – his second of a frustrating afternoon.

The Guardian