A Silent Protest

28 March 2012

Dear riders of the Tour of Flanders,
The first day of April 2012.
You’ve probably all marked this date on your calendars months ago.
You’ve had long training sessions in the winter, through wind
and rain, in order to prepare yourselves for this upcoming classic.
Maybe you even dreamed of making a difference in this race
by getting away from all the other riders on a crucial moment.
Did this moment perhaps take place on ‘De Muur’?
Well, you can forget about that dream from now on.
The most precious race of Flanders has lost its own crown.
They moved the finish to another town called Oudenaarde.
This means that ‘De Muur’ is no longer present at the end of the race.
No ‘Muur’ in the Tour of Flanders is like leaving out the cobblestones
in Paris – Roubaix, the Poggio in Milan – San Remo or the finish
on the Champs Élysées in Paris on the last day of the Tour de France.
In Belgium ‘De Muur’ is a tradition and almost a sacred place,
 with hundreds, maybe thousands of people standing along the road every year.
That is also the reason why so many fans are against the decision.
The organization has taken away a piece of history and a spectacular final.
I don’t think that the ‘Paterberg’, which is now
a part of the final, could ever make up for this enormous loss.
The organization stated that the decision has got nothing to do with money.
However, if you want to get a good spot at the finish,
you have to pay for it. Another tradition broken.
This week the town mayor of Oudenaarde received a threatening e-mail
in which a ‘fan’ said that he is going to throw clout nails on the road.
Given this information, the police will be extra alert this weekend.
Even though one should never support ideas like these, it is
quite understandable that people are angry and want to do something.
We may not have a say in the matter, but together we can make a statement.
Some journalists and fans already did this by announcing that
they will still stand on ‘De Muur’ during the Tour of Flanders.
They will symbolically wait for the riders that won’t pass.
It’s a silent protest.
Riders, it’s so simple for you to respond to this statement.
Just follow the old map of the Tour of Flanders.
Think about cycling history, its traditions and most of all,
think of the importance of ‘De Muur’ in the Tour of Flanders.
Do you really want to throw it all away for a bit of money and commerce?
If you dare to protest and follow the old map to Meerbeke,
you will most likely appear on the front pages of all the papers.
You will be the ones who get all the attention and keep the tradition alive.
In the mean time, nobody will think about the winner of this year’s edition.
Don’t let men in suit take over procycling, but make
sure that they know that you are in control of your own sport.
A sport that exists because of traditions and the support of the fans.
Show them that cycling is from us all and be a part of the silent protest.

© Belga

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