Fans may not have been able to line the roadsides to cheer on the riders at the Tour of Flanders but they instead took to the couch in vast numbers to watch Kasper Asgreen (Elegant-QuickStep) beat Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) in the sprint, delivering record viewer numbers for Flemish sports broadcaster Sporza.
Belgium is currently in the midst of a lockdown to tackle a third wave of COVID-19, with schools, non-food stores and many other activities closed plus night time curfews in force. Before the Tour of Flanders fans were being urged to stay home and claim the television remote instead of claiming a spot beside the road. It seems that plenty heeded the message.
“On Sunday afternoon, an average of 1,304,477 viewers tuned in to One to experience the culmination of the Tour of Flanders. An absolute record. It thus achieved a market share of 84%,” said Sporza.
“The peak time was at 4:18 pm. The moment when Mathieu van der Poel and Kasper Asgreen decided among themselves who could win the Ronde. No fewer than 1,646,601 viewers saw Asgreen as the first to raise their hands.”
Numbers for the women’s race, won by a solo Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team), were below last year’s at 681,937 but delivered a market share of 59.1 percent.
This drop in viewers below the 739,000 of 2020, however, comes after Dutch broadcaster NOS Sport stopped televising the women’s race at 6pm, a move which Daam Van Reeth, a professor at the Faculty of Economics and Business at KU Leuven, said on a Twitter post meant that probable another 100,000 viewers should be added to the total.
Over the whole day there were more than 2 million Flemish viewers tuning into the television coverage.
The next Belgian race is Scheldeprijs, with the 109th edition of the men’s race on Wednesday and the first ever women’s edition.
Again public will not be allowed out on the course to watch due to COVID-19 restrictions. It would have been a tough day out for fans if they had been allowed, as the sprinters Classic is facing forecasts calling for cold temperatures and high winds with hail or wet snow possible.
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