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Belgian road championships at risk as country cancels sporting events through August 31

DOUR BELGIUM MARCH 03 Tim Merlier of Belgium and Team AlpecinFenix during the 52nd Grand Prix Le Samyn 2020 a 2019km race from Quaregnon to Dour GPSamyn gpsamyn on March 03 2020 in Dour Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images
Belgian champion Tim Merlier could have another year in the national champ's jersey (Image credit: Getty Images)

Just as the ASO and the UCI have announced plans for a late-August to September Tour de France with the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España following, the Belgian Security Council announced on Wednesday it has cancelled all sporting events, mass public gatherings and major summer festivals until August 31.

The move goes against the allotted date specified by the UCI for national championships of August 22-23. The Belgian championships were due to be held in Anzegem, but the mayor Gino Devogelaere told Het Nieuwsblad that he would not allow the race to be held that weekend.

"We don't have people to organize it, and allowing a mass in August is unthinkable. I think it would be better to postpone everything for a year," Devogelaere said.

"They decided this without consulting me," he says of the UCI's allotted date. Even if there is dispensation to hold the race, Devogelaere says 75 percent of all sponsors have already dropped out. "Everyone tells us that they are going to invest the money in their company instead of the race. And I can understand them, too."

"We had 3,000 VIPs, that covered all expenses. But without those VIPs, there's no race. Who's going to pay if there are no VIPs? And we estimate 15,000 people, how many are going to come? Everybody's afraid of that virus. As mayor, I won't allow crowds on that day. 

"We have to be serious about today's measures and then look at the race with thousands of people. And if there's an outbreak afterwards, everyone's going to look at me. No, no, no championship in August. We're going to negotiate with the union to postpone everything for a year. We think that's best for everyone. Tim Merlier will have to wear the jersey for an extra year. Nobody's seen that jersey yet."

The halt to sporting events through August also affects races like the GP Cerami, Baloise Belgium Tour, Tour de Wallonie, GP Stad Zottegem, Druivenkoers - Overijse, GP Jef Scherens and Brussels Cycling Classic. If racing does resume in September, the usual block of pre-Worlds races: Kampioenschap van Vlaanderen, Primus Classic, Gooikse Pijl and Omloop van het Houtland Middelkerke-Lichtervelde would be swamped by the rescheduled Tour de France.

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