The first week-end of Belgian road cycling might again be a troubled by snow and ice, just like last year, as it has been snowing in the Northern European country yesterday. Race organiser Wim Van Herreweghe, who presented the course for the 60th edition of the race on Monday, February 21, has been arranging for an alternative course in case temperatures stay below zero, and has furthermore contracted a bad weather insurance policy.
In 2004, the race had to be cancelled just 40 mins before the start, as the weather conditions had made the departure of the riders too dangerous. The alternative route will amount to only 180 km instead of the planned 201 km, leaving out several cobblestone climbs which could prove too hazardous for thin road racing tyres. "Our priority is the security of the riders, the accompanying motorbikes and the public." said Van Herreweghe. "If we have to, we'll cut the first 50 km or the last 30." The additional insurance policy will keep the organiser clear of financial difficulties in case the race has to be cancelled.
Het Volk is scheduled to take place between Gent and Lokeren on Saturday, February 26 at 11.30 am. Belgian teams Chocolade Jacques, Davitamon-Lotto and MrBookmaker.com will assess the course on Wednesday, February 23. "Peter Van Petegem [who could go for a record of four victories at Het Volk - ed.] and Robbie McEwen are on antibiotics," said Davitamon-Lotto directeur sportif Marc Sergeant. "They are curing bronchitis, but will be OK in time. Axel Merckx and Cadel Evans also suffers from the 'flu. In this Siberian cold, we have to be careful."