In the wake of recent terrorist attacks in Europe, there will be an increased focus on security and crowd safety at Sunday's Tour of Flanders. Race organisers have announced that Saturday's amateur 'We Ride Flanders' sportif, and the men and women's race on Sunday will all feature increased levels of security.
Belgium's Organisation for Threat Analysis Coordination (OCAM) has remained at level three out of four for several months. Last year's bombing of the Brussels airport cast doubt on the running of the classics which all went ahead without incident.
16,000 cyclists are expected to participate in Saturday's 'We Ride Flanders' with the start, like the elite races, taking place in Antwerp. The riders then head out onto the course via the Waaslandtunnel, which is usually blocked for cyclists. At the Waaslandtunnel and Kopperberg, there will be increased security checking only registered riders are taking part in the event as the organisers Golazo explained in a statement.
"These checks and the limitation of the maximum number of participants have proved their worth in recent years — there will be fewer people around without a starting permit. This creates less pollution and better communication with all those on the road," read the statement.
Last year, a 46-year-old Irishman died during the 'We Ride Flanders' event due to a heart attack.
Over half a million people are expected to line the roadside for the 101st edition of the Tour of Flanders Sunday. To prevent possible ram-raid attacks, strategically placed concrete bollards will feature on the race route. Further security measures for the race will include police checks on spectators, a ban on rucksacks in the 17 secured zones, and a ban on personal drones. 600 police are reported to line the roadside.
In February, Wim Van Herreweghe of Flanders Classics explained the increased security had been planned and organised with local authorities.
"This has been prepared in co-operation with the governors and police," Van Herreweghe said. "We need to follow the guidelines that apply to terror level three. In addition to the dozens of policemen who will patrol, we will have 100 stewards to check luggage in public areas."
The Tour of Flanders starts in Antwerp and will finish in Oudenaarde. Cyclingnews will have live coverage of the race, followed by a report, results, photos, video highlights and news.