A year ago, the Italian Oscar Gatto celebrated his victory in the Belgian spring classic Dwars door Vlaanderen. At that time, he and a few other drivers managed to catch the Frenchman Thomas Voeckler just before the end of the race. Voeckler had previously animated the race in his inimitable way, causing a stir.
This year, however, someone else is causing a stir. And that even before the race: US President Barrack Obama has announced his visit to Belgium for next Wednesday. He will meet the European Council and Commission there, and also appears to visit a war cemetery in Waregem, where fallen US soldiers are buried. The reason for this is the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War.
The organizers of Dwars door Vlaanderen also planned to pass the burial ground this year. However, the race's schedule would overlap with Obama's. Because of this, the organizers had to relocate the course. Originally, they wanted to take the field of drivers via the E17, which is right next to the burial site. Now the route leads past the burial ground on one of the side streets. After that, the riders have to complete two laps with a total of eleven climbs in the region before hitting the road to the finish in Waregem.
“We really wanted to integrate the burial site into our course to pay our respects to the fallen”, race director Guy Delesie told Het Nieuwsblad. He seems to have succeeded in this and although Obama's visit to Waregem has not yet been finally confirmed, the organizers are on the safe side.
Garmin Sharp team manager Jonathan Vaughters even wants Barrack Obama to come and watch the race. At least he invited him to do so via Twitter.
Hey @BarackObama.You should come on over and watch bike racing in Waregem after honoring WW1 vets.We'll get the team cars armored up for you
— Jonathan Vaughters (@Vaughters) March 19, 2014