The Dwars door de Westhoek race is under threat for 2017 after ASO has made a late application to hold a women’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege. According to the organisers, Liege-Bastogne-Liege was given priority over their own 1.1 categorised race, which was Christine Majerus won this year, as ASO had applied for WorldTour ranking.
They had already begun preparations for their usual April slot but now find themselves in a mad dash to find a new date before the week is up. The Dwars door de Westhoek organisers say they feel like they have been hard done by in what seems a last-minute decision from the ASO, the Belgian Federation or the UCI.
"On Tuesday, I got a phone call from the Belgian Federation to say that ASO wanted a women’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege and that we would need a new date,” race secretary Wim van Cauwenberge told Cyclingnews. “We had to submit our paperwork by May and usually the final calendar comes a few weeks before the World Championships. We had a provisional calendar sent in August, but there was no mention of Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
"We will have a meeting next week, but we have been told that we need to find a new date by the end of this week."
A few new dates have been proposed to the race organisers, in the week after or two weeks before their original date. However, either slot would lead them to clash with other well-established races such as the Energiewacht Tour at the beginning of April or the Festival Elsy Jacobs in Luxembourg. The earlier date also leads to a clash with Paris-Roubaix and the fear that ASO could set up a women’s edition has only reinforced their decision to decline those suggestions. With an increasingly busy calendar, Van Cauwenberge admits that finding a suitable date is going to be tough.
Aside from a few suggested dates, Van Cauwenberge told Cyclingnews that they have yet to receive any assistance from the UCI or the Belgian Federation. Paperwork has already been sent out to their sponsors and the police with the April date, and moving could cost them money. Van Cauwenberge impressed that the race is also largely run by volunteers, many of which aren’t local, and that could also prove a sticking point.
The Dwars door de Westhoek race has been running since 2007, with Emma Johansson winning the inaugural edition. It began as a national series event but was given UCI status in 2010; it has since become a 1.1 categorised race and regularly attracts many of the top female riders. Since 2013, it has been nestled into the calendar at the end of April. It is a position on the calendar that has worked very well for them, with many riders closing out their Classics campaign there.
The organisers will meet this coming Monday to discuss the future of the event. The finalised women’s calendar for 2017 is due to be released following the World Championships next month.
Cyclingnews has contacted the UCI, which declined to comment, and ASO, which is yet to respond.