Less than a day after organisers of the BinckBank Tour were forced to cancel three stages because of new COVID-19 restrictions in the Netherlands, they've received offers from Belgian host cities to allow the final three stages to go ahead.
A surge in coronavirus cases in its biggest cities led the Dutch government to impose new limits prohibiting public attendance at sporting events, that went into effect on Tuesday evening. It forced the cancellation of the BinckBank Tour's individual time trial in Vlissingen on Wednesday, the start of Thursday's stage in Philippine and the stage finish in Sittard on Friday.
Riders were given a rest day on Wednesday rather than head into the Netherlands for the scheduled time trial as organisers engaged in last-minute negotiations to allow the race to go ahead.
They managed to devise a course for stage 3 on Thursday, with the original finish town Aalter also hosting the start. Riemst - originally host of the start of a 195.4km long stage 4 to Sittard on Friday - will now shift their stage to an 8.1km individual time trial. Although the coronavirus knows no borders, the stages will carefully skirt the Netherlands while remaining within sight of it.
"We are very happy to be able to help the BinckBank Tour with this," said Riemst Mayor Mark Vos, according to Sporza. "We have been working well together for nine years, so that extra effort must be possible. Logistics is a feat, but it only makes things more beautiful if we succeed. Everyone wins."
The time trial will head from the Albert Canal near Kanne and immediately climb the Slingerberg, a 600m climb with an average six per cent grade, head north-west before crossing the canal and turning back south-east on the Muizenberg within sight of the Dutch border back to Kanne.
"With this time trial, which runs completely across our territory, we can present our municipality even more beautifully and better than was the case with the original start. Every cycling enthusiast will discover Kanne, one of the most beautiful villages in our country, just like ours."
Thursday's stage will now begin in Aalter, located about 40km south of the original start in Philippine, and finish there as originally scheduled.
"Just like in Aalter, where we can continue the BinckBank Tour on Thursday with a redesigned ride, we are also very grateful to the municipality of Riemst for making this solution possible," said Gert Van Goolen, spokesman for the BinckBank Tour.
"It promises to be a great time trial in Limburg. With the help of both Aalter and Riemst, we managed to continue the BinckBank Tour in just half a day."
The current classification, with stage 1 winner Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates) at the top of the overall and points standings and Milan Menten (Sport Vlaanderen Baloise) leading the Sprints classification, will remain the same heading into Thursday's stage 2 in Aalter.
The final stage on Saturday from Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve to Geraardsbergen, a hilly one suited to the Classics specialists, now has even more importance for the overall classification.
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