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Leif Hoste, Peter van Petegem and Vladimir Gusev all gave the sprint for the lower places on the podium a go in Sunday's Paris-Roubaix, but it turned out to be a waste of effort as the race jury were soon to announce they had disqualified them for not stopping at a train crossing with about 15 kilometres left to race. According to International Cycling Union regulations, the sanction for this is disqualification, writes Susanne Horsdal.
"The rule was introduced a long time ago to avoid riders being tempted to take risks on train crossings. You could see that there was sufficient time for them to stop. It's unfortunate for those in question but that's how the rules are. The pros know them," explained Claude Deschaseaux, head of the race jury.
Jean-Marie Leblanc from the race organisation did not agree. "It was clear that Cancellara would win and that those behind would fight for second place. I would have let spirit take the front seat instead of just going strictly by rule book," said Leblanc.
Van Petegem obviously wasn't happy with the decision, but admitted that he'd made a mistake when he didn't stay behind the barrier and wait for the train to pass.
"At first I stopped, but then I reacted to Leif Hoste, who rode on, and went after him. It's not easy to make a decision in that situation and I reacted on instinct. But we put nobody in danger - not even ourselves," said Van Petegem.
The Davitamon-Lotto rider couldn't help asking himself the question: what would have happened if it had been Cancellara in that situation and it had meant that he'd lost the race. "I also think it's very strange at 15 kilometres from the finish in one of the most important races of the year to have a train passing," added Van Petegem.
On a sporting level he was pleased with his performance, though. "Cancellara was one of the big favourites. I saw when he attacked and I tried to close the gap on Carrefour de l'Arbre, but I didn't manage, and then came the train episode. Still, in a week I've managed to finish fourth in the Tour of Flanders and third here. I think it proves that I'm not finished even though that's what many people have said recently," said the former winner of both races.
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