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Amstel Gold Race still in doubt as Dutch authorities announce staged reopenings

Amstel Gold Race 2019 54th Edition Maastricht Berg en Terblijt 2657km 21042019 Mathieu Van Der Poel NED Team Corendon Circus photo Dion KerckhoffstCVBettiniPhoto2019
The 2019 edition of the Amstel Gold Race saw a stunning come from behind win by Mathieu van der Poel (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

The Amstel Gold Race, which was given a date of October 10 on the UCI's revised 2020 WorldTour calendar could still be up in the air as the Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte expressed doubts about holding mass sporting events before there is a vaccine available for the coronavirus that has caused over 5,000 Dutch citizens to die of COVID-19.

The BinckBank Tour is due to take place September 29 through October 3 but cancelled the planned start in the Noardeast-Fryslân town of Dokkum in the Netherlands.

In his daily press briefing on Friday, Rutte was asked specifically about whether the Amstel Gold Race would be allowed to go ahead. According to 1Limburg.nl, Rutte replied, "There's really no way to say that now."

Most countries are proceeding cautiously with easing lockdown restrictions that have slowed the spread of the virus which became a pandemic in March. The Netherlands will allow some businesses to reopen on Monday, May 11 - salons, physiotherapists, dieticians and alternative medicine practitioners - in addition to reopening some schools, daycare facilities, and some sporting activities.

Restaurants and entertainment venues such as movie theaters can reopen in June with reduced capacity, and there is a possibility of non-contact sports such as golf and tennis resuming.

However, larger scale sporting events - even with reduced crowds or no spectators - will only be allowed from September 1 provided the spread of the virus is still under control. Rutte expressed doubts about professional cycling events, where physical distancing could be difficult to impose.

"I have no idea, the only thing I know for sure is the relaxation of next Monday," said Rutte. "But the large group of licensed [cycling] events, I'm not very happy about that right now. Encouraging cyclists, they can become super-spreaders if you're not careful. I hope that in the next few weeks more will be found out about how the virus is spreading."

The new Health Minister, Hugo de Jonge, wrote in a letter to the Dutch Parliament that mass events should not take place until there is an effective vaccine against the coronavirus.

"We cannot yet give a date for the last step [of reopening]: the mass gatherings. That is actually only possible if there is a vaccine and no one knows how long it will take. We hope of course soon, but a year or more is very real," De Jonge said.

Amstel Gold Race director Leo van Vliet is remaining optimistic for the future of the race. "We'll see what we have to do organisationally, but for me the glass is half full," says van Vliet. "At the moment everything is arranged. We are a small organization, very flexible and we can achieve great things. We've shown that in recent years."