The 2021 UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championships will go ahead as planned in Ostend, Belgium, during the last weekend of January, but they will take place without any spectators as a measure against the coronavirus pandemic.
"We have always believed in it, and had examined all the different scenarios," said organiser Rik Debeaussaert this week, according to HLN. "We're therefore very proud that all the hard work in recent weeks, months and years has finally led to a decision. Now we only look ahead and count down the days to the spectacle."
The defending women's and men's world champions – Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado and Dutch compatriot Mathieu van der Poel – are expected to line up in Ostend for the elite races on January 30 and 31, respectively, with Alvarado set to duel with countrywomen Lucinda Brand and Denise Betsema, while Van der Poel will likely face stiff competition from Belgium's Wout van Aert and Eli Iserbyt.
"No one could have predicted a year ago that we would be organising these World Championships without any spectators, but that is the only right decision," said Ostend mayor Bart Tommelein.
"Ostend will be the backdrop for a titanic battle in cyclo-cross. We had promised that at the presentation of the event last year, and that remains the case," he said.
"All parties have made efforts to make these World Championships possible in these difficult times," said the Flemish Minister of Sport, Ben Weyts. "The Worlds in Flanders will be the highlight of the season for the top Flemish cyclo-cross riders, but also for TV viewers in Flanders, too. Events like this give us collective moments of joy."
The Flemish Minister of Tourism, Zuhal Demir, added: "The cyclo-cross World Championships happening in Ostend was the ideal time to introduce cycling fans from all over the world to all the beauty, sights and delicacies that Flanders has to offer.
"But even without spectators, we'll invest as much in our reputation as a cycling country as we can so that after this lockdown we can then welcome back those thousands of supporters to the cradle of cycling that is Flanders," she said.
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