Tour of Flanders cycling race will be run virtually amid coronavirus outbreak

The coronavirus outbreak has forced the majority of sporting events to be canceled or postponed in recent weeks. However, the historic Tour of Flanders cycling event in Belgium isn’t going to be among them.

The 104th edition of the Tour of Flanders, which is scheduled for Sunday, is going to be a “lockdown edition,” and will be virtual this year. It marks the first time since World War I that the physical Tour of Flanders race has been canceled. The race is considered one of the five most prestigious events on the cycling calendar.

Now 13 professional cyclists will take on the cobblestone course from the comfort of their own homes, including Remco Evenepoel, who is making his Tour of Flanders debut.

“I never thought I would make my Monument debut this way, but it’s still better than nothing,” Evenepoel¬†told the Associated Press. “I guess I’m the first rider in history to race a Monument for the first time on a smart trainer, and as strange as it may sound, I am looking forward to it. From what I understood, it will replicate the conditions of Flanders, so it should be quite a tough test.”

Because this year’s race is going to be virtual, TV broadcaster Sporza and technology firms Bkool and Kiswe have created a digital platform for the virtual course. In addition, there will be an app that fans can download to live-stream the event. The event will be 20 miles (32 kilometers) and live commentary will be provided on the stream.

“It’s a difficult time for everyone, but we really hope this project will bring some happiness and a glimmer of hope to all the fans in Belgium and around the world, who will have the possibility to watch us live as we race the final part of Flanders,” Deceuninck-Quick Step cyclist Yves Lampaert said.

This certainly will be interesting to see how the virtual race fares. Tour de France organizers have yet to make a decision on the historic race, which is scheduled to begin on June 27. However, the success of the virtual Tour of Flanders could have an impact on that decision.

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