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Belgium trials ‘virtual’ cycling race

The Tour of Flanders will be ridden from the cyclists' homes this Sunday. Credit: Pixabay

This Sunday will mark the first-ever virtual edition of the Tour of Flanders bicycle race, seen as the government’s far-reaching coronavirus (Covid-19) measures would prohibit the physical race.

Instead of a full race with whole teams and fans on the side of the road, the 104th Tour of Flanders will be raced by 13 professional cyclists from the comfort of their own homes and will only cover the last 32 kilometres. They will ride in place on bike rollers and, using the digital platform Bkool and a live streaming app called Kiswe, the cyclists will ride a virtual version of the course, which will be broadcast on TV.

TV channel Sporza and the organisers of the Flanders Classics race developed the concept together with technology partners Bkool and Kiswe. They “teamed up to look for an innovative initiative that is also interesting for fans and riders,” Sporza said. The 2020 tour is being called “a race from their kot,” in other words a race from the cyclists’ homes. 

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Frequent commentators Michel Wuyts and José de Cauwer will provide commentary as usual. The race can be watched at 3:30 PM on TV channel Één or via livestream on The 13 riders to brave the virtual stage include Belgian heavyweights Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Jasper Stuyven and Greg Van Avermaet. The other cyclists are Olivier Naesen, Zdenek Stybar, Yves Lampaert, Mike Teunissen, Alberto Bettiol, Tim Wellens, Thomas De Gendt, Michael Matthews and Nicholas Roche.

This week marks what the organisation of the Tour of Flanders is calling the “Holy cycling week,” with Ghent-Wevelgem and Dwars door Vlaanderen (“Straight through Flanders”) originally set to happen on 29 March and 1 April respectively.

Jason Spinks
The Brussels Times