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Terror attack puts Belgian classics at risk

  • By Gregor Brown
  • Published Mar. 22, 2016
  • Updated Mar. 22, 2016 at 1:48 PM EDT
Wednesday's Dwars door Vlaanderen is still on, but the organizer will decide Wednesday morning whether or not to race. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

MILAN (VN) — Explosions at the Brussels airport and metro system Tuesday morning put Belgian’s one-day races — Wednesday’s Dwars door Vlaanderen and Friday’s E3 Harelbeke — at risk due to terrorism fears. After an emergency meeting, Dwars door Vlaanderen organizer Flanders Classics says it will hold its race in Waregem, to the west of Brussels.

Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. local time, two blasts rocked the departures area of the Zaventem airport. An hour later, another one hit the Maalbeek metro station near the European Union headquarters. Authorities closed the airport and metro system and raised the terror level to four, the highest mark.

Flanders Classics released a statement to say that it is still planning to hold its 200-kilometer race Wednesday.

“For the moment, Dwars door Vlaanderen will take place tomorrow, despite the terrorist attacks that took place in Brussels on Tuesday morning,” the statement reads. “The organizers mourn with the victims of these terrible acts. More information in due time.”

The organizer said it will wait until Wednesday to make a final decision. The race director told NOS if the threat is still at level four, its one-day race will not go ahead as planned.

The attacks put all of sport in danger, including cycling. Dwars door Vlaanderen is the first of a series of races in Belgium, followed by the E3 Harelbeke, Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem, the Three Days of De Panne, the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), and the Scheldeprijs. Flanders Classics called an emergency meeting Tuesday morning following the Brussels attacks.

Several top riders, including Belgian Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) and Niki Terpstra (Etixx – Quick-Step), are due to race Wednesday. Jelle Wallays (Lotto – Soudal) won the 71st edition last year ahead of Edward Theuns (Trek – Segafredo). Only in 1971 did the organizer not hold its race.

Already this spring, Belgian authorities planned for increased security at their races due to recent incidents. ISIS terrorists allegedly planned the November Paris attacks in the Brussels area of Molenbeek. Last week in Brussels, police raided an apartment and arrested five people, one linked to the Paris attacks.

Flanders Classics is one of cycling’s biggest organizers behind ASO and RCS Sport. Besides Dwars door Vlaanderen, it runs the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders, and the Scheldeprijs.

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Gregor Brown

Gregor Brown

Bikes kept Gregor Brown out of trouble growing up in Oklahoma — BMX, freestyle and then watching Greg LeMond's Tour de France wins on CBS television's weekend highlights shows. The drama of the 1998 Tour, however, truly drew him into the fold. With a growing curiosity in European races and lifestyle, he followed his heart and established camp on Lake Como's shores in 2004. Brown has been following the Giro, the Tour and every major race in Europe since 2006. He will tell you it is about the "race within the race" – punching out the news and running to finish – but he loves a proper dinner, un piatto tipico ed un vino della zona.

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