The 2020 edition of the Tour of Flanders is looking increasingly unlikely to go ahead after the Belgian sports minister said it wasn’t “realistic” for the race to happen amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
“Let’s be honest,” Ben Weyts told Belgian radio, “I don’t think it’s going to be feasible. That a whole peloton from all over the world could settle in Flanders a few days after April 3…we must also show a sense of responsibility.”
It would be the first time since 1918 the cobbled Classic hasn’t taken place and follows the cancellation of other prominent races such as the Giro d’Italia, with Belgium’s March Classics such as E3 BinkBank Classic and Ghent-Wevelgem also likely to get cut. Race organisers say they expected little else and understand the race is likely to be cancelled.
“What the minister said was already in the air,” Tomas Van Den Spiegel told Het Nieuwsblad, speaking on behalf of Flanders Classics. “You cannot impose measures until April 3 to organise the largest festival in Flanders on April 5. We must understand that it is going in the direction of being cancelled. And if you hear this message from the minister, it seems irreversible.”
Paris-Roubaix is also expected to be on the chopping block, scheduled for one week after the Tour of Flanders, with De Telegraaf suggesting these races could be rearranged for the autumn or even November.
“Regardless of whether it will be possible, it will have a completely different experience,” EF Pro Cycling’s Sebastian Langeveld said. “This is because of the way I prepare, training all winter, doing all things with those top races in mind. But Paris-Roubaix will remain Paris-Roubaix. Although there will be more leaves hanging on the trees.”
After the culmination of the final stage seven of Paris-Nice, with stage eight already being cut as a compromise to dealing with the coronavirus outbreak, it is unknown when top-level racing will return.