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Following the terrorist attacks on Tuesday morning in Brussels, race organiser Flanders Classics has confirmed it plans to go ahead with Wednesday’s Dwars door Vlaanderen. However the Belgian government will have the final call.
Two explosions were detonated in the departure hall of Brussels airport just before 8 am local time, reportedly killing 14 people and injuring many others.
Approximately an hour later an estimated 20 people were killed in an explosion on a metro train in Maelbeek. The station was near European Union buildings plus the US embassy.
The Islamic State terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the outrage. Belgium’s security level has been set to the maximum level of four, a ranking which can lead to the cancellation of public events.
Earlier today Flanders Classics said that it hoped the race would go ahead. A meeting this evening has led to a decision to proceed, although a race spokesman admitted it was not yet 100 percent.
“Dwars door Vlaanderen, a Flemish spring classic, takes place tomorrow,” the company said in a statement, “although the race will be held in special circumstances due to the terrorist attacks that took place in Brussels on Tuesday.
“The riders will pay their respect to the victims and their families at the start with a minute of silence and the podium ceremony will be adapted to the tragic circumstances.”
Race organiser Guy Delesie has said that safety is a major concern. “Security forces in Roeselare [the starting place – ed.] and Waregem [the finish] assured that the safety of the peloton and the fans will be assured.
“And the local governor is in negotiations with the ministry of Internal Affairs. If the government in Brussels decides that we should cancel the race, we accept that decision. But otherwise Dwars door Vlaanderen will go on as scheduled.”
Speaking to CyclingTips, race press officer Guy Vermeiren said that the final decision would come later. “At this moment, the race will be taking place. The final decision will be made in Brussels. We don’t know when.”
According to a Tweet from journalist Bart Coopman, West Flanders governor Carl Decaluwé has indicated the decision will be made this evening between 7:00 and 8:00pm.
— Bart Coopman (@Coopman_Bart) March 22, 2016
The border with France was sealed earlier today and Brussels’ main airport is closed until at least tomorrow. This has greatly complicated transport to the event, but Vermeiren expects many of the scheduled riders will line out.
“I talked to Tristan Hoffman from Tinkoff. He said that all the riders took different flights to Charleroi or to Lille.
“Giant Alpecin have a shortage of riders. They were already down to six [due to injuries, including a January collision with a car while training], and now three others can’t make it. Because of that, the team won’t compete.
“Maybe there are a few other teams with problems in getting the riders here on time. But that’s a minority.”
It will run two races on Wednesday, a men’s and a women’s event. Parkhotel CT and Hitec Products have withdrawn from the latter.
So our girls are either stuck in transit or cannot fly at all to Belgium, I decide to cancel our race tomorrow. Well done scumbag terrorists
— Karl Lima (@Karl_Lima_Hitec) March 22, 2016
Flanders Classics also organises Gent-Wevelgem, the Ronde van Vlaanderen/Tour of Flanders, Scheldeprijs and De Brabantse Pijl.
It is unclear if any of these will be affected due to security concerns.
Last week Flanders Classics said that spectators would be forbidden from taking backpacks to the Tour of Flanders as a precaution.
Heart heavy. Stomach sick. How many times have i sat in that Starbucks or checked in for my flight there? How many good people died again?
— Jonathan Page (@thejonathanpage) March 22, 2016
#BREAKING Britain advises against all but essential travel to Brussels: Downing St
— AFP news agency (@AFP) March 22, 2016