A not very traditional Tour of Flanders.
Greg Van Avermaet won the Tour of Flanders on Sunday, 5 April. Even though the famous cycling classic wasn't really a classic...
In a country experiencing confinement in the midst of a coronavirus crisis, the race did indeed take place and featured great champions. But it was virtual and only for a select few.
For the first time since 1918, the biggest popular festival in Flanders could not take place, but the organisers opted for a virtual version to satisfy the many viewers and sponsors. In practice, 13 professional riders, including Remco Evenepoel, Greg Van Avermaet, Wout Van Aert and the defending champion, Alberto Bettiol, were present. The race, broadcast live on VRT and on the RTBF website, with commentary by professional journalists, was a huge success. More than 600,000 fans followed the event.
The cyclists gave their all on their home trainers, reaching speeds of up to 70km/h in their living room or garage. Technological advances in home trainers and virtual applications allow cyclists to get as close as possible to real racing conditions. This includes the effects of the difference in altitude or the draft (following in the wake of other cyclists to save energy). What were missing, however, were the wind, the vibrations of the cobblestones and, above all, the atmosphere and the encouragement of the public by the side of the road.
Cycling still has a bright future ahead of it once normal life has resumed.