Rising tensions in Belgium following the arrest in Brussels of an alleged conspirator behind the recent attacks in Paris could scuttle plans for US riders hoping to compete at Sunday’s Koksijde cyclo-cross World Cup.
A spokeswoman from the US Embassy in the Belgian capitol told Cyclingnews today that the threat level in Brussels has been raised from 3, indicating a high level of threat, to 4, which indicates an imminent attack. The rest of Belgium remains on level 3.
The US embassy is urging all Americans in Belgium to stay home, but if they must go out, the embassy has advised them to avoid large crowds and to exercise caution in public transportation systems, sporting events, residential areas, business offices, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, public areas, shopping malls and other tourist destinations.
There are 12 US riders on the Koksijde start list, including multi-time US champions Katie Compton and Logan Owen, among others. Compton’s Husband, Mark Legg, told Cyclingnews today that his wife will be racing on Sunday, while Owen said there is still a question as to whether he will be on the start line.
“I’m waiting to hear back from Geoff Proctor and the other higher ups at USAC as to whether it's safe to start tomorrow or not. I won't know until later tonight probably,” Owen wrote in an email to Cyclingnews. “Safety is the number 1 priority, though. Missing a bike race to stay safe isn't the end of the world.”
In a statement issued to Cyclingnews, USA Cycling said it is monitoring the situation and will determine the best course of action in the coming hours.
"The USA Cycling Athletics Department has been working closely with the Belgian US Embassy and the USOC Security Team — made up of former US Secret Service and US State Department staff — to determine the best course of action for American riders at the UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup in Koksijde, Belgium," the statement read. "Though the event is being held on a Belgian military base and the US State Department has not issued a travel restriction in Belgium, the safety of our athletes is our top priority.
"The team is not staying in the area, and choosing not to compete is still an option. Even if USA Cycling determines that it is safe to compete in Koksijde, athletes and their families reserve the right to not compete if they feel unsafe."
USA Cycling maintains a house in Limburg, Netherlands, where many of the riders stay during their European trips. Neither Compton nor Owen are staying at the Limburg house, however.