Cycling race halted as woman competitor nearly overtakes men

In a bizarre turn of events, former Switzerland national road champion Nicole Hanselmann was forced to stop after she nearly caught up with the men's race at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2019.

Nicole Hanselmann

Former Switzerland national road champion Nicole Hanselmann was made to stop midway during the women's race at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.   -  Instagram @nicole_hanselmann

In a bizarre turn of events, a cycling championship in Belgium was halted after a woman cyclist nearly caught up with the men's race.

In order to create a clear distinction between the two races, the women's race at the annual Omloop Het Nieuwsblad race started 10 minutes after the men's.

Former Switzerland national road champion Nicole Hanselmann attacked after 7km and surged into a two-minute lead, which brought her almost on a par with her the competitors in the men's race.

The organisers forced her to stop by the side of the road for five minutes as they tried to "neutralise" the race and establish a sizeable gap between the two races.

 

This stoppage had a bearing on Hanselmann's performance. She was given a two-minute headstart when the organisers restarted the women's race. That, however, didn't help her cause as she seemed to have lost her edge and finished a lowly 74th.  

"We came too close to the men's so we had to get a neutral time gap again so it was a bit sad for me because I was in a good mood and when the bunch sees you stopping, they just get a new motivation to catch you," Hanselmann told Cyclingnews at the finish.

"The race jury just said we had to neutralise the race because we are getting too close to the men.

"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 added.

Hanselmann went on to label the incident as awkward in an Instagram post, which has triggered a strong debate. While many have slammed the decision to stop the race as sexist, negative responses too have made their way to her comments section.  

 

Was Hanselmann too fast or were the men too slow?