Organisers of the Koksijde UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup announced today that the race would go ahead as planned, with extra security, despite the area being placed on high alert after the Paris terrorist attacks on November 13.
According to Het Nieuwsblad, the Mayor of Koksijde, Mayor Marc Vanden Bussche, will have a military presence along with extra police to provide security. "We recommend that visitors do not bring any backpacks or bags to avoid queues. After all, everyone will be searched and there are also metal detectors at the entrances. With what we know now, the safety is not compromised. It is the first time we have organized the competition with such a terrorist threat. But after the World Cup three years ago, we worked out a very good and thorough safety plan."
There have been concerns that a refugee centre that is on a military base adjacent to the course could be a target, but all major events have been given high alert levels since Friday. Two football 'friendly' matches were cancelled yesterday amidst threats, one in Germany and one in Brussels, but the Gent Six Day kicked off on Tuesday without a hitch.
USA Cycling still plans to send a full complement of riders to the event. American champion and former Koksijde World Cup winner Katie Compton says it's business as usual. "Right now, we're still going and we'll see if anything changes once we arrive in Belgium. It's definitely a worry, and scary to think something could happen, but I also don't want that to change our plans. Racing may seem irrelevant at the moment, but I feel like we should carry on with living normally and not allow ourselves to be scared," Compton told Cyclingnews.
Christine Vardaros, an American living in Belgium, will also compete in Koksijde, and feels confident about going there. "Personally, I am very doubtful that anything will happen. Koksijde is so far removed from Brussels that IS wouldn't have much manpower on site. And since the arrival of the refugees, security has been kept high. The race is held on a military site. It is even hard for the racers to get inside. We all have to submit our license plate numbers beforehand to gain entry."
A USA Cycling spokesman said they would follow the recommendations of the US State Department for travel to Europe. "Although there aren’t any current warnings or alerts in Belgium, we will continue to monitor the situation and adjust accordingly. Athlete safety is, of course, the number one priority, and we will follow the recommendation of the U.S. State Department to ensure that nobody is put in harms way."
The State Department asks Americans to follow the advice of local authorities and "maintain a high level of vigilance, be aware of local events, and take the appropriate steps to bolster their personal security."
Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. A swimmer in her younger days, Laura made the change to cycling later in life, but was immediately swept up by a huge passion for the sport. Riding for fitness quickly gave way to the competitive urge, and a decade of racing later she can look back on a number of high profile races and say with confidence, "I started". While her racing days are over for the most part, she continues to dabble in cyclo-cross and competing against fellow pathletes on the greenways of Raleigh, North Carolina.
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