A women’s cycling race in Belgium had to be stopped because one of the female cyclists, Nicole Hanselmann, almost caught up with the men racers. The organisers of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad race thought that it was enough to keep a time difference of ten minutes between male and female events. Little did they know that one female cyclist was going to end up being close to overtaking the male cyclists participating in the race ahead of her own. So when this woman came too close to the men’s event, guess what did they do? They halted the female event abruptly. This move, however, ended up costing the cyclist in question not just her sizable lead, but a potential win as well.


  • The organisers of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad cycling race were forced to pause the women’s race after the lead female rider, Nicole Hanselmann, caught up with the men racer.
  • Despite her event starting ten minutes after the men’s cycling race, Hanselmann caught up with her male counterparts.
  • The organisers were not prepared to handle this situation. So they stopped the women’s race temporarily, to restore the gap. This ended up costing her sizable lead and a potential win.
  • The onus of Hanselmann’s loss lies with the organisers, who took women’s potential so lightly. 

Imagine being in a lead of more than two minutes over your rivals, and then being stopped, despite no fault of your own.

According to The Guardian, Swiss cyclist Nicole Hanselmann surged into an early lead of almost two minutes in the said race. However, the event organisers neutralised the women’s race in order to restore the gap between the two groups, as they stood the risk of being impeded by the support vehicles for male cyclists. This one of a kind incident shows what happens when you underestimate women. The organisers assumed that the female cyclists wouldn’t be able to cover up a mere gap of a few minutes, which stood between them and their male counterparts. This assumption, however, cost Hanselmann a win she deserved. When the race restarted, Hanselmann was given a head start, but she had lost her advantage and she finished 74th. Imagine being in a lead of more than two minutes over your rivals… And then being stopped, despite no fault of your own and losing both your momentum and the advantage.

I hope the race organisers think about their actions, which cost Hanselmann so much. It was not her fault that she was so good. It wasn’t her fault that she surged ahead of her competitors and got so close to the men’s event. Yet, she ended up losing more than a big lead in a professional event. Hanselmann even joked about the entire incident on Instagram saying, “May(be) the other women and me were to(o) fast or the men to(o) slow.” However, her sportsmanship cannot veil the gross negligence on part of the organisers. It is about time they start taking women’s capabilities seriously. Frankly, it is ridiculous to think that no woman will be able to cover a time interval as short as ten minutes.

It is ridiculous to think that no woman will be able to cover a time interval as short as ten minutes.

Also, why were the organisers so comfortable with stopping the women’s race abruptly? Yes, it was for their own safety. But come to think of it, the sheer lack of any other option for this situation shows that it just never crossed their minds. They could have had a separate lane or an alternative route in place. Or they could have organised it on different days. Or at least separated the two events by an hour or so. But they didn’t do that. And therein lies the problem. It just never occurred to the organisers that a woman cyclist could catch with her male counterparts. Thus they had no plan in place to tackle that situation.

It never occurred to the organisers that a woman cyclist could catch with her male counterparts.

For centuries people have considered women as secondary athletes. No matter what sport you take, the male version of it is not only more popular, but considered superior. It is always given precedence over the female event. I am not saying that the organisers should have stopped the male cyclists to let Hanselmann pass. That would have been unfair to them, but perhaps it is time that organisers stop treating women’s events in sports as secondary.

It is an insult to their skill, that they had to stop and wait on the side so that the male entourage could pass ahead.

What happened with Hanselmann may resonate with numerous women, who face hurdles in their career. The social inclination to think only from men’s perspective costs them their success and position. However, no one can get away with sidelining them anymore. The accountability for Hanselmann’s loss lies with the organisers and they better think of this as a humbling experience. They must respect the talent of women athletes like Hanselmann or prepare to face a backlash.

Picture Credit: Instagram: Nicole Hanselmann

Also Read: Emma Thompson Asks At What Cost Are We Giving “Second Chances”

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own.

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