Viewers watched a virtual and a real Greg Van Avermaet win the Virtual Tour of Flanders. (Photo: AFP)
Olympic road race champion Greg Van Avermaet said on Sunday winning the virtual edition of the Tour of Flanders, held instead of the real race due to the coronavirus pandemic, was "funny".
Avermaet, 35, was joined by 12 other cyclists in racing the final 32km of 'De Ronde', one of cycling's five one-day 'monuments', which was broadcast online after being postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Avermaet's daughter was seen on screen with her father in their attic room as Team CCC's Belgian finished 20 seconds ahead of compatriot Oliver Naesen and Ireland's Nicolas Roche.
"It was a funny feeling, you suffered without having the feeling of being in the races," Avermaet, who was born in the region, said.
"My girl, who couldn't understand why her dad was busy racing at home, was very happy for me," he added.
Australian Michael Matthews failed to finish while seventh-placed Tim Wellens raced from his balcony in Monaco.
"The effect of the wind was also replicated, the effort was much more difficult for the rider in front than those behind," Lotto Soudal's Wellens said after racing from his home on the Mediterranean coast.
"I had without doubt a better view than Olivier Naesen who was pedalling in his basement in Belgium," Wellens added.
Earlier in the day race organisers said they could re-schedule the race itself for later in the cycling calendar.
"The goal is to still organise 'De Ronde' later this year. Everyone has agreed on that. But for now, it's just hypothetical discussions because we don't know when the crisis will end," organiser Tomas Van Den Spiegel told Flemish television channel VRT.
Virtual champion Van Avermaet said he hoped it would take place which would give him a shot at going one better than his two second-placed finishes in 2014 and 2017.
"I hope the real Tour of Flanders can take place in the autumn and I can really win it," he said.
The race was viewed more than 21,000 on YouTube and it was also shown on Belgian TV.
This year's week-long Tour of Switzerland, originally set for early June, has discussed the idea of holding an online version of its race also.