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Tour of Flanders fan’s Paralympic dream in balance after riders crash into her

Belgian para-athlete Anke Sneyers was watching race from roadside when riders swerved to avoid another spectator

A Belgian woman’s hopes of competing in the Paralympic Games in Paris later this year reportedly hang in the balance after riders competing in yesterday’s Tour of Flanders crashed into her as she was watching the race from the roadside.

The spectator, Anke Sneyers, was described by broadcaster as a “promising” para-athlete in athletics, where sprinting is her speciality, has previously represented Belgium in the world and European para athletics championships and is a multiple national champion.

The 21-year-old sustained a head injury, concussion and broken collarbone in the crash, which happened just after the first passage of the Oude Kwaaremont in the men’s race, won with a long-range solo attack by world champion Mathieu van der Poel.

Her brother Thomas said that the crash was caused by riders having to swerve to avoid hitting another spectator who was standing in the road.

“My sister was supporting at the roadside with my parents and friends, we are a real racing family,” he explained. “Another spectator was standing on the road when the peloton arrived. As a result, the riders had to swerve and collided with my sister.”

He also slammed what he termed “internet heroes” who had blamed his sister for the crash on Facebook.

“How all these people dare to pass judgment in the comments, without having seen anything decent, and even respond that they have ‘no pity’, it makes me (sorry for the word) sick to my  stomach,” he said.

He said that his sister had targeted representing Belgium at the Paralympic Games in Paris later this year, but “She will most likely have to put that dream away now – the chance of being physically ready in time to reach the limit is very small. She can probably forget about the Games now.”

As to his sister’s condition, he added: “Considering the circumstances, she's doing fine. It could have been a lot worse.”

The public prosecutor’s office in Oudenaarde has reportedly opened an investigation to establish exactly what happened.


Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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festina | 2 weeks ago
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Witnessing the aftermath of that crash I was quite concerned for the spectator. The riders were all picking themselves up but the spectator clearly wasn't moving. I hope she recovers ok.

don simon fbpe | 2 weeks ago

I'll admit that my initial reaction was that the stupid arse deserved what they got, stand in the way of a marauding peloton and you deserve all you get, obviously it wasn't clear who the stupid arse was. I hope that Anke recovers quickly. It does shine a light on the problems where the sport is becoming more and more popular and people becoming less and less educated. There are few sports where you can get withing touching distance of your heroes, and long may it remain. But as more and more incidents like this occur, I can only see tighter controls coming into place. I can also see the sponsors supporting some kind of paid access, like the Belgian CX races, where whole areas have restricted access and paid entry. Hopefully perspective comes into play and that given the number of events and fans watching, there really are very few incidents. Hopefully the alleged knobhead that was standing in the road is found and dealt with appropriately.

A thought has just occured in that phones should be banned and anyone caught trying to take a selfie should be tarred and feathered, not saying that this was the cause, but it would stop a significant amount of dickheadery!

Matthew Acton-Varian replied to don simon fbpe | 2 weeks ago

It's easy to judge in the moment, but Anke was positioned reasonably safely at the side of the road - had someone else not put themselves in harms way she would have never been in any danger. Also, had the riders who crashed knew who/where she was (20/20 hindsight and all) would have probably tried to act differently albeit when you see someone jump out in front of you, it's hard not to fight your instincts to deviate (which almost always causes crashes in a peloton) when the chances of crashing go from 100% to 99% if you move.

It's a financial and logistical impossibility but road races would be much safer if the entire route was lined with barriers between riders and spectators. Unfortunately there is no way to stop the handful of idiots who cause this carnage.

I hope the idiot involved is identified and punished, and Anke's recovery is as fast as possible.

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