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Female cyclist forced to stop after catching up to men in prestigious Belgium race

A female cyclist who surged ahead of the pack in a prestigious race in Belgium was forced to stop after she caught up with her male counterparts Saturday. Competition officials had to temporarily halt the women's portion of the Omloop het Nieuwsblad race, which started 10 minutes after the men's competition on the same course.

The speedy former Swiss road race champion Nicole Hanselmann excelled to start the race, pulling ahead of the other women at around the 4-mile mark. She pedaled on alone for a while — until she began spotting the men.

"I attacked after 7km, and was alone in the break for around 30km...but then a awkward moment happened and I almost saw the back of the men's peloton," the 27-year-old wrote on Instagram.

As she approached the male riders, the race's official Twitter account called for the "neutralisation" of the women's race due to a "very slow men's race." "Riders will restart with the same timings," it added.

After the race, Hanselmann joked, "maybe the other women and me were too fast or the men too slow."

Hanselmann was allowed to restart ahead of the rest of the field in an attempt to restore the two-minute advantage she had built up, The Associated Press reported. But the break coupled with the cold conditions sapped Hanselmann's energy and the rest of the field eventually caught her.

Dutch cyclist Chantal Blaak wound up winning the race; Hanselmann finished 74th.

Organizers of the Flanders Classics, a series of marquee cycling events, said in a statement Monday that the women's race was stopped was for "safety reasons."

"The organization had to intervene because the leader of the women's race was getting too close to the convoy of the men's race. At that point the elite women's race was neutralized for about five minutes time. As soon as the safety was restored the women were able to continue, with respect for the previous time differences obtained during the race," it said.

Moving forward, organizers will consider starting the women's race a "few minutes" later than this year's, according to the statement.

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is a road cycling one-day race and the fourth event of the 2019 UCI World Tour.

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