Lotto Cycling Cup organisers apologise for bikini models

Podium at Flanders Diamond Tour
Winners of the women's race in Belgium were flanked by girls in bikinis

Organisers of the Lotto Cycling Cup have apologised after the winners of a women's race in Belgium were flanked by models wearing bikinis.

A picture of the podium was posted on Twitter after Wiggle-Honda's Jolien d'Hoore won the Antwerp to Nijlen stage of the Flanders Diamond Tour.

Dutch racing cyclist and journalist Marijn de Vries described the scene as "an utter disgrace".

Lotto Cycling Cup organisers apologised but added they were not responsible.

In a series of tweets, they said plans had been made by local organisers and they found the podium "inappropriate".

The models were recruited by Hostessen Service No Limit, which - among other services - also offers striptease acts.

Its manager, who gave his name as Gerrid, told the BBC: "I don't understand what the problem is."

He laughed when it was put to him that some of the cyclists found the incident sexist, adding: "Sometimes during the race, women race with their shirts open."

He said he did not intend to apologise as "it's not our problem".

Anna Zivarts mocks up a men's podium
Twitter user Anna Zivarts mocked up a version of what a men's podium could look like, entitled "podium equality"

Johan Molineaux, the local organiser of the event, told the BBC he would not be using Hostessen Service No Limit again and planned to personally apologise to the competitors.

"For a lot of women it is damaged. For me it is a sad day," he said.

Molineaux explained he was elsewhere during the presentation and that the women were supposed to wear cycling shirts but took them off.

The UCI, world cycling's governing body said it had looked into the incident and had contacted the organisers, who apologised.

Defending champion D'Hoore, on her return from a six-week mid-season break, beat fellow Belgian Kelly Druyts in the penultimate race of the seven-stage competition.

The Women's Tour of Britain starts on Wednesday and speaking at the launch of the event, British cyclist Helen Wyman gave her views on the podium model issue.

"I think podium girls should be a thing of the past," she told BBC Sport.

"It's 2015. I'd much prefer to see the race sponsors on the podium, as it's their money that allow us to do what we do, and we'd prefer to see them rewarded."

Lotto Cycling Cup tweet
Lotto Cycling Cup tweet

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