The Muur Van Geraardsbergen has officially been cut from the 2020 Tour of Flanders route.
Back in November, the mayor of Geraardsbergen said the climb could be cut from the race as local authorities struggled to justify the hefty price tag of €50,000 for its inclusion, with Guido De Padt suspecting that not wanting to pay may have resulted in its removal.
"We were not aware of Flanders Classics' intention to change or shorten the course. Let alone that we knew we would fall victim to that," De Padt told Sporza. "You wrong all those Flemish people...by leaving the Muur out of the course.
"The Tour of Flanders has grown with the Muur. And the Muur has grown with the Tour of Flanders. I am not a doom-monger or superstitious but sometimes I get the impression that what happened last year has now played a role. But we don't want to pay money for a passage a hundred kilometers from the finish."
Race organisers have said the decision to cut the climb has nothing to do with any financial dispute with local authorities, instead pointing to the fact including the Muur in this year's course would mean a 30km detour to an already 240km-long course.
"[With Antwerp as the departure and Oudenaarde as the finish and definitely wanting to keep the final duo Kwaremont-Paterberg," Tomas Van den Spiegel, chairman of the board of Flanders Classics, said. "Cutting in Brakel in the trip to and from Geraardsbergen was therefore the only option. That is a detour of about 30 kilometres."
Van Den Spiegel says their concern over not extending the course is due to the already packed schedule of the salvaged 2020 season, with the Tour of Flanders slated for October 18th, coming at the end of a crammed two months of racing starting on August 1st, the Belgian race taking place during the Giro d'Italia with the Vuelta a España then beginning two days after the cobbled classic.
"I can understand that people are not satisfied with that, but we really wanted to send a signal to the riders. A number of teams were concerned about the busy schedule," Van Den Spiegel explained. "By shortening our race we want to make everyone's life easier in these times. Let's hope we can organise a full Tour of Flanders and other competitions again in 2021."
These explanations appear to have fallen on deaf ears, as De Padt says Geraardsbergen will now once again explore other options for their fabled climb. "The organization must now make clear where it really wants to go with the Muur. That could enable us to take other paths. When a decision was made a few years ago to take the Muur out of the Tour of Flanders, we brought an arrival of the BinckBank Tour to Geraardsbergen. We will now also take other initiatives to bring the people to Geraardsbergen."
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