The organisers of the Tour of Flanders have said that they are preparing for a "number of scenarios" in light of the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus in Europe, which has seen the postponement of an array of sporting events.
"Of course, we are concerned. We are preparing for a number of scenarios," Flanders Classics CEO Tomas Van Den Spiegel told VTM.
"There are no government guidelines for the events yet. We are waiting for that and we are in close contact with the government. Although we can take preventive measures ourselves. These range from hand gel to setting safety parameters."
There have been 314 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Belgium thus far, but while the government announced new measures to counteract the spread of the virus on Tuesday, no restrictions have yet been placed on outdoor gatherings.
A number of races across Europe have already been postponed due to restrictions on mass gatherings, including Milan-San Remo, Tirreno-Adriatico and Strade Bianche in Italy, the Tour de Normandie in France and the Lousã Mountain Bike World Cup in Portugal.
Paris-Nice is taking place this week, albeit with restrictions on spectators at stage starts and finishes. Riders competing at Paris-Nice have expressed concern that the following slate of racing – including the Flemish Classics – might fall by the wayside.
"When you see what is happening in Italy, we understand that concern," Van Den Spiegel said. “But we also just have to listen to the people who know more about it. We have to wait and see. We now have a time frame of several weeks. It is difficult to estimate what will happen. But we have no choice but to take cancellations into account. Economically, that would have major consequences.”
RCS Sport has insisted that it hopes to hold its postponed events – Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo and the Giro di Sicilia – later in the season. "That could be a track we’ll want to look at," Van Den Spiegel.
E3 BinckBank Classic takes cautious approach
The Tour of Flanders is scheduled for April 5, while Flanders Classics also organises the preceding Gent-Wevelgem (March 29) and Dwars door Vlaanderen (April 1), and the following Scheldeprijs (April 8).
The men’s and women’s races at Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne, organised by the Veloclub Panne Sportief, are fixed for March 25 and 26, while another independent race, the E3 BinckBank Classic, is on March 27.
The E3 organiser Jacques Coussens confirmed to Radio 2 Oost-Vlaanderen that his race has delayed erecting its VIP tents on the Oude Kwaremont and at the start-finish area in Harelbeke. Ordinarily, the process would have begun on Wednesday.
"Yesterday we consulted with the various authorities and we will also enter into a dialogue with the city of Harelbeke to see what we can do," Coussens said.
"The construction of the VIP tents would normally start today, but we postponed that for a week. Next week we will make a final decision on how we will handle it. We are looking at the situation day by day, because maybe they say tomorrow something else again. We want to solve this in the best possible way to meet the recommendations and still lose as little money as possible."