The GP Monseré in Roeselare, France, is typically one of the early season races that doesn’t get a lot of press coverage, despite a star-studded field.
But this year, controversy at the finish line is causing a lot more people to hit rewind on the footage to see whether it was Belgian Gerben Thijssen (Intermarché - Circus - Wanty) or Australian Caleb Ewan (Lotto Dstny) who crossed the line first.
Was it too close to call?
The two finished the sprint ahead of Sam Welsford (Team DSM) and the photo finish was probably one of the closest finishes on record.
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While Thijssen ostensibly took the win, two photos emerged on Twitter showing a finish line angle that suggested Ewan was actually the winner. Ewan himself shared both, noting, “I kind of think I won,” and “Here’s another one. If anyone’s got photo of big G clearly beating me it would actually make me feel a bit better to be honest.”
By comparison, here’s the finish line photo that the race organizers used to determine the winner:
Admittedly, this has been a frustrating season of very tight photo finishes for the Australian. At the UAE Tour just two weeks ago, he lost the sprint by millimeters:
So it's understandable that another second place finish, especially one with dubious finish line photography, would send him to Twitter to make his point.
Ewen’s team is getting involved
The drama continued when Ewan’s team, Lotto Dstny, reached out to the UCI for clarification around how the photo finish was determined, and asked to see the photo evidence of Thijssen’s win.
The team was also quick to note that this isn’t sour grapes—it’s not an issue if Thijssen won, it’s a matter of transparency in cycling.
“We filed an official request to see actual proof that it’s Gerben Thijssen who won the race, and not Caleb,” a Lotto Dstny spokesperson told Cyclingnews. “For the moment, this has not been presented to us, so for us it’s an official request to see the proof... We would prefer to have a clear picture where it’s Gerben Thijssen who wins, because then at least it’s clear. For the moment, it’s not clear and we feel that if they decide to give the win to him, at least they should be able to prove this.”
Why is this so complicated?
Unfortunately, the classification of the GP Monseré is part of what makes this difficult. According to Cyclingnews, because the race is a third-tier event rather than a WorldTour or ProSeries race, the finish line camera regulations are quite lax.
Still, it’s a little shocking that in 2023, the best quality finish line shot they could get was the grainy, blurred image you see above. Surely even a mid-range GoPro knockoff could have captured a better shot?
Molly writes about cycling, nutrition and training, with an emphasis on women in sport. Her new middle-grade series, Shred Girls, debuts with Rodale Kids/Random House in 2019 with "Lindsay's Joyride." Her other books include "Mud, Snow and Cyclocross," "Saddle, Sore" and "Fuel Your Ride." Her work has been published in magazines like Bicycling, Outside and Nylon. She co-hosts The Consummate Athlete Podcast.