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59th Omloop Het Volk - 1.1

Belgium, February 28, 2004

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Complete Live Report

Commentary by Jeff Jones

Start time: 11:30 CET
Estimated finish time: 16:30 CET

Welcome to Cyclingnews' coverage of the 59th Omloop Het Volk, the opening race on the Belgian calendar and one that's seen as quite significant, especially for the Belgian pro's. The race starts in Gent's Citadelpark in front of the S.M.A.K. (museum of contemporary art) and finishes in Lokeren, about 30 km from Gent. After the start, the riders head southwest to Oudenaarde where they begin a series of nine climbs that will shape the race. After doing the final climb of the Molenberg (km 139) they head northeast to Lokeren, encountering a number of flat, cobbled sections in the final 30 km. The course is tough even in dry conditions, but the snow falls this week will make it very selective (and cold) indeed.

Gent at 9:00am
Photo ©: CN

At the moment (8:40am CET), approximately 3 hrs from the start, the organisers are optimistic that the race will go ahead, despite more snow falling on Friday night. However, the Cote de Trieu and the Oude Kwaremont are definitely out, and the Kanarieberg as well. If it doesn't snow too much more today [not a given, as it's just started snowing lightly in Gent now!] then the race should be able to be completed.

09:00 CET   
Snow update: At 9:00am CET, the snow is starting to come down a lot heavier at the start. It's not quite as thick as it was yesterday morning, but it's tough riding a bike in these conditions, let alone racing one.

Iwan, from Oudenaarde, which is about 25km southwest of Gent and on the Het Volk parcours, says that it's snowing hard there too...Fingers crossed, but it doesn't look good at the moment. In Gent, the snow has eased, but there's now a fresh cover of white stuff on the roads.

Scott Sunderland (yes, he's meant to be riding today) reports that it's started snowing in Zottegem and Horebeke.

Piet, from Wetteren, approximately halfway between Gent and the finish at Lokeren, says they've had a heavy snowfall there too. We'll now check out the start and report back in a few hours.

11:01 CET   
At 11am, organisers in conjunction with the UCI and the police have been forced to cancel this year's Het Volk due to snow. Sections of the parcours at the beginning and near the finish at Lokeren, particularly with the multiple cobbled sections, were deemed too dangerous and the organisers are not able to guarantee the riders' safety.

The riders and team directors we spoke to seemed more relieved than disappointed, as they knew they weren't risking a serious crash today which could put the next few months in jeopardy. Still, everyone was pumped up for the first race of the season, and it's a letdown for everyone involved.

Tomorrow's Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne is in danger too, however the organisers have more options open and may be able to just run a circuit race on the big roads if the weather remains the same

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