Leuven expects around half a million people for cycling championships this weekend

Police are asking cycling enthusiasts or day-trippers not to come to Leuven by car on Sunday, but to take public transport or other transport means instead as the city expecting big crowds for the men's elite race at the World Cycling Championships. Today, cycling fans witnessed a British and Italian success in the women's races.  

Leuven Mayor Mohamed Ridouani (socialist) says he is expecting 300,000 to 400,000 cycling fans tomorrow, and half this number today for the two women's races. 

Belgian Rail has scheduled 29 extra trains to Leuven with a potential of carrying 75,000 people. "Please avoid the area by car. Take the bus, the bicycle, or the train, or come by foot", local police repeated. 

Hundreds of police officers are working extra this weekend. The ladies' road race today is a test for the busiest day tomorrow, when the men's elite riders will finish in Leuven to battle it out for the rainbow jersey. 

About the organisation: "Went to Yorkshire to learn"

Organisers seem very well prepared and also visited the world championships in Yorkshire, Britain two years' ago to learn new things. In order to guarantee a safe event, the city has been divided into 8 different zones that can be evacuated relatively quickly in case of problems.  

Flanders paid over 21 million euros to get the World Championships here, an investment that will pay itself off automatically, experts think. The lion's share of the bill was paid by Flanders itself, the four host cities (Knokke-Heist, Bruges, Antwerp and Leuven) and Flemish Brabant province. 

Success for Britain and Italy 

This morning, the girls' junior race was won by Zoe Bäckstedt of Great Britain. Zoe is the daughter of the former Swedish professional rider Magnus, the winner of Paris-Roubaix in 2004. Zoe, who only just turned 17, beat Kaia Schmid in a sprint of two breakaway riders. 

In the afternoon, the women's elite race did not bring the gold medal to the Netherlands. It was Italy's Elisa Balsamo (23) who won the sprint of a breakaway group with all the favourites, resisting a sprint comeback by Dutchwoman Marianne Vos - who could have taken a fourth title. Lotte Kopecky had nothing left in the tank for the final sprint and took 16th place for Belgium. 

Elisa Balsoma was the fastest in the women's race on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
17-year-old Zoe Backstedt won the girls' event.

Top stories