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Dutch BinckBank Tour stages cancelled due to coronavirus surge

BinckBank Tour 2020 - 16th Edition - 1st stage Blankenberge - Ardooie 132,1 km - 29/09/2020 - Jasper Philipsen (BEL - UAE - Team Emirates) - photo Tim van Wichelen/CV/BettiniPhoto©2020
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

According to Wielerflits.nl, the stages of the BinckBank Tour scheduled to start in the Netherlands have been canceled because of a surge in coronavirus cases has led the Dutch government to impose new, stricter measures.

Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates) won the opening stage in Ardooie on Tuesday and leads the overall classification ahead of Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) and Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma).

The race was due to head north to Vlissingen for the key 10.9km individual time trial, but a surge of COVID-19 in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague have led Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to take action.

Beginning on Tuesday, the government has advised against non-essential travel between those cities and has banned large gatherings.

Stage 3 is also due to start in the Netherlands, just across the Belgian border in Philippine, while stage 4 was due to start in Riemst, Belgium outside Maastricht and travel into the Netherlands for a finish in Sittard.

That leaves stage 5 from Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve to Geraardsbergen as the only stage untouched by the restrictions.

The decision was made jointly between the Sittard-Geleen, Terneuzen and Vlissingen municipalities who could not let the race proceed amid the new restrictions.

"It was a painful, but necessary decision to prevent the spread of the virus," Vlissingen mayor Bas van den Tillaar said according to Limburger.nl.

"Unfortunately we had to take this difficult decision, however much we would have liked to have given this sporting event a place," said Hans Verheijen, mayor of Sittard-Geleen. 

Jan Lonink, the mayor of Terneuzen added, “Unfortunately, it is not possible to continue this cycling race now. That is of course very unfortunate for the athletes, organization and everyone involved. ”

The BinckBank Tour was originally scheduled for August 31-September 6, but moved as part of the UCI's wider restructuring of the 2020 road calendar after the pandemic forced the cancellation or postponement of races in March through August.

A stage in Dokkum, in the Netherlands, was cancelled and the race reduced from seven to five days, after the Dutch authorities extended restrictions on mass events through August.

However, the country reversed the decision after a turnaround in infection rates in the country. That opened up possibilities for racing earlier than expected beginning on July 1, allowing the Dutch national championships to go ahead in August and led BinckBank organisers to add new stages in the Netherlands, including the finish in Sittard.

The latest measures now throw into doubt the upcoming Amstel Gold Race, scheduled for Saturday, October 10. The race is held in the same region as Sittard, with the finish in Valkenburg, only 20km away. The Dutch time trial Championships, set for October 7, were cancelled earlier on Tuesday

"It is not yet certain whether it will continue," Amstel Gold Race organiser Leo Van Vliet told Sporza. "It's very exciting, we've been having conversations all day long."

"It looked good nonetheless. We submitted our plans last week, both at the UCI and at national and local level. It looked like everything would be approved, but yesterday's tightening has put everything in jeopardy again.

"The decision is in the hands of the 'Security Region'. They have to take the plunge. We can only do our very best to make everything as safe as possible. When the decision will be made, I don't know at the moment. week, otherwise it will be very difficult for us anyway.

"Plan A has been off the table for a long time, plan B too. We are already working on plan C, so to speak."