A day after brazen terrorist attacks in Brussels, cycling defiantly pushed on Wednesday with Dwars door Vlaanderen.
Teams quietly gathered in Roeselare on Wednesday morning for the start of the 71st edition of the Belgian semi-classic. Located about 100 kilometers west of Brussels, the race seemed far away from the horror and tragedy of Tuesday’s attacks that left more than 30 people dead and hundreds injured.
Despite a three-day national mourning period and questions about a potential security threats, race officials decided Tuesday evening to hold their race as planned. After security officials gave the green light, there was quiet consensus that the best thing to do was to hold the race as planned.
Reaction among the peloton was muted. Some riders lined up with black arm bands, and the peloton held a minute of silence in honor of the victims and their families.
Giant – Alpecin was not at the start line because three of its planned six starters were unable to reach Belgium on Tuesday due to the ensuing chaos in the wake of the attacks. A few other teams were also a rider or two short, including Movistar, which started with only four riders.
Dwars marks the unofficial opening of the Flanders classics. The 200km course tackles a string of the cobblestoned climbs featured in the upcoming Gent-Wevelgem and Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders). A few of the top names, such as Fabian Cancellara of Trek – Segafredo) and Peter Sagan of Tinkoff, skipped the race as expected.
Pre-race favorites included Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), Tiejs Benoot (Lotto – Soudal), and Niki Terpstra (Etixx – Quick-Step).