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Tour of Flanders and Gent-Wevelgem take further steps to minimise coronavirus risk

The 2020 Tour of Flanders will be very different, visually, to the 2019 version (pictured) with spectators being banned from the race’s famous cobbled climbs due to the coronavirus pandemic
The 2020 Tour of Flanders will be very different, visually, to the 2019 version (pictured) with spectators being banned from the race’s famous cobbled climbs due to the coronavirus pandemic (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The organisers of the 2020 Tour of Flanders – rescheduled from its early April calendar slot to October 18 this year due to the coronavirus pandemic – have taken further steps to make the race as safe as possible by encouraging spectators to stay at home and watch on television, and banning spectators on the cobbled climbs, as well as from the start and finish areas.

According to Het Nieuwsblad, the start area for Flanders – where the teams presentation will also take place – has been moved the short distance from Antwerp's Grote Markt to Steenplein so that it can be closed more easily to spectators, who will also be banned from the finish area in the city of Oudenaarde.

For the same reasons, the start of this Sunday's Gent-Wevelgem has been moved from Ypres' Grote Markt to the Menin Gate, and neither the Tour of Flanders, Gent-Wevelgem nor Scheldepris (October 17) will be accessible to spectators on climbs or on cobbled sectors, as was the case with another of organiser Flanders Classics' other races, the Brabantse Pijl, on Wednesday.

"The new starting locations are a necessary change because we can close them more easily, logistically, and they still remain visually attractive for the host cities," said Flanders Classics CEO Tomas Van Den Spiegel, according to Het Nieuwsblad on Wednesday.

"It will look different, but we think it's our duty to ourselves to still make something out of it. We still want to present the riders and the teams, as people are used to that happening, but we have to do without an audience. We will stream the teams presentations live, so that people can follow them at home," he said.

The Flanders Classics organisation is asking people to stay away from the races and instead follow them on television, going as far as not releasing information about this year's courses on the races' websites, while Van Den Spiegel acknowledged that fans will be disappointed not to be able to cheer the riders on over Flanders' famous cobbled climbs.

"It is the only option to allow us to organise our competitions so that they're 'coronaproof'," he said.