Tour of Flanders crash apology falls flat: ‘It was like a bowling ball rolling into the peloton’

Peloton reeling from worse mass crash since infamous Tour de France 'Allez Opi-Omi' incident in 2021.

Photo: Jan de Meuleneir - Pool/Getty Images

Almost no one outside of the peloton had heard of Filip Maciejuk before Sunday’s Tour of Flanders.

That changed in an awful instant when the Bahrain-Victorious rider provoked the worst mass crash in men’s cycling since the notorious “Allez Opi-Omi” incident in the 2021 Tour de France.

The Polish rider lost control after trying to bunny-hop back onto the roadway and appeared to clip a wheel before shoulder-bumping another rider to create a cascading effect at the very front of the men’s peloton.

The impact was devastating.

“The big crash happened just in front of me. It was his own mistake. I don’t know what he was planning to do there,” said runner-up Mathieu van der Poel. “They should create punishments for such behavior. It’s so obvious. It was like a bowling ball rolling into the peloton. It was really not necessary at that point of the race.”

The road was completely blocked with twisted bodies, bikes, and lycra, and several pre-race favorites, including Tim Wellens, Ben Turner, and Peter Sagan, racing in his final Flanders, were all forced to abandon.

Turner was later diagnosed with a broken left arm, while Wellens broke his left collarbone and will undergo surgery Monday.

It was the worst mass crash in men’s cycling since the infamous “Allez Opi-Omi” crash in the 2021 Tour de France when a fan holding a sign provoked a crash that saw the entire peloton come to a crashing halt.

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Maciejuk was quickly dispatched from the race, and immediately took to social media to apologize.

“I’m really sorry for my mistake and causing the crash today. I hope all those involved are in good health and safe,” he wrote in a message posted on Twitter. “This should not happen and was a big error in my judgement.

“I had no intention of causing this. All I can do now is apologise for my mistake and learn from this in the future. Sorry again to the peloton, my teammates and the fans.”

That heartfelt apology from the second-year pro wasn’t enough for some.

Nearly everyone muttered that riders shouldn’t use shoulders and sidewalks to try to move up. Ineos Grenadiers rider Luke Rowe was also disqualified from a recent edition of De Ronde for a similar, but much less dramatic, incident. Rowe didn’t cause anyone to crash.

“Hurts to watch huge crashes likes this,” wrote ex-pro Mark Renshaw. “Filip Maciejuk deserves being thrown out of the race. I’d give him a couple of extra weeks out to think about that.”

Disqualification and a fine: Will the UCI investigate?

Peter Sagan’s final Tour of Flanders ended in a crash. (Photo: Jan de Meuleneir – Pool/Getty Images)

By Monday, there was no official reaction or comment from Bahrain-Victorious officials about the incident.

The race jury disqualified Maciejuk, and later fined him 1,000 Swiss francs, and subtracted 50 UCI points. The race jury cited the following rule:

ART. 8.2 Violence, intimidation, insults, threats and improper behaviour (pulling on the jersey, on the saddle of another rider, head , elbow and knee strikes, pushing with the shoulder, foot or hand, urinating in the crowd, etc. …) or indecent behaviour or putting others in endangering.

The race jury, however, is limited to issuing only cash fines, and imposing time or points penalties. The UCI Disciplinary Commission could investigate the incident and perhaps issue a racing ban.

Riders and sport directors were livid about the crash, but many kept their thoughts to themselves.

The crash wiped out some of the top names of the peloton, and no one had anywhere to go. Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal Quick-Step) and Jasper Stuyven (Trek Segafredo) were other top names who went down hard.

“I was a little disappointed to fall, but it was a big fall, so it was hard to avoid,” said Alaphilippe, who continued but didn’t have the legs to play a decisive role. “I am still convinced that Flanders is a race that I love, that I dream of winning some day.”

American rider Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar) was forced to swap his bike but otherwise avoided the more serious implications that others faced.

“There was the mass pileup that I was involved in. I changed bikes, chased onto the front group, and then from there it was just a lot of suffering,” Jorgenson said.

“I was caught in this big crash with [Peter] Sagan outside of Oudenaarde, and had to wait and change bikes because my bike was broken.

“Thankfully, I had Ivan Romeo and he brought me back, and we got back on the first time up the Kwaremont. From there, the race was just on.”

“Some of the crashes were nasty, especially before the big one before the Kwaremont,” said Zdenek Stybar (Jayco-AlUla). “It was very nervous all day. There was another big crash with Mohorič, that one I saw. I just hope everyone is OK from these crashes.”

The incident will mark Maciejuk, a young Polish rider who started his second Tour of Flanders on Sunday. Many consider him one of Poland’s most promising young riders, but the race ended way worse than he could have imagined.

A screenshot of the aftermath of the crash Sunday. (Photo: GCN/VeloNews)

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