“I was actually in the race... That's great" - Incredible story of how an unknowing amateur rode onto course alongside world leaders at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

During Saturday afternoon's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, fans at the side of the road on the Muur van Geraardsbergen were surprised to see an unfamiliar cyclist in an unknown white jersey riding amongst some of the world leaders on the climb.

That man was 20-year-old Belgian amateur, Jaro Spitaels and his story of just how he came to find himself riding alongside some of the biggest names in the sport in one of the most renowned races on the calendar is a truly incredible tale so strap yourselves in.

“I was completely unaware that I was on course,” he tells Het Nieuwsblad, revealing he had actually intended to ride the climb before any of the big names were anywhere near. “I left too late, so I knew it was going to be close. But when I rode onto the course at the Geraardsbergen hospital, I asked the officer if I could continue riding. He said that was possible.”

“I never saw a rider, motorcycle or car, so I never noticed anything. A signalman also said that I could continue. I only realized that something was wrong when I got all the way to the top and saw all the support cars on the road ready to take part in the race. Then I thought: Shit, riders must have already passed here,” Spitaels continues. “It was already fantastic to ride up the Muur with all those supporters, but when I think back now that I was actually in the race... That's great. Although I'm especially glad that nothing happened. I cannot imagine that I would have disrupted the course."

Whilst undoubtedly a nice story for Spitaels to tell in the coming years, the race has come in for criticism over the incident. “It is a shame to hear that some people feel called to pull a stunt,” says Flanders Classics head of communications Annelore Cleuren. “By doing so, you not only endanger the safety of the competition, but also your own. The fact that the sport is practiced on public roads makes the race vulnerable. That is why it is nice that in almost all cases we can count on everyone: signalers, law enforcement, emergency services and the public.”

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Cycling Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

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