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Sports

The silence of Eschborn

The idea that a German cycling race could be a terriorist target was scarcely conceivable. The cancellation of the Eschborn-Franfurt event has left would-be participants, including DW's Joscha Weber, feeling uneasy.

All is quiet where long lines of cyclists were supposed to be waiting for their starting papers. I'm at a warehouse in the industrial district of Eschborn near Frankfurt am Main. A couple of volunteers load some boxes into their cars. Two cyclists lift their bikes onto the rooves of their cars. A group of French youths stand around, not knowing what to say. The silence at what should have been the start of the "Rund um den Finanzplatz Eschborn-Frankfurt" road race is almost ghostly.

I'm one of the many people who have come here to take part in the race through the hills surrounding Frankfurt - it's a demanding route, even for cyclists in perfect condition. Like many of the would-be starters, I only learned of the planned terrorist attack after I'd set off for Frankfurt. Once I arrived, I knew that the race wouldn't be happening. And indeed on the eve of the event, authorities called it off, citing the uncertain security situation.

Ötztaler Radmarathon 2014 Joscha Weber

Joscha Weber was one of those who turned up in Frankfurt only to be disappointed

A lot of disappointed people

There are long faces all around me. One of them belongs to Guido Fischer, the man in charge of registration for the race. He's supposed to be hanging out start numbers to 4,500 racers. Instead, he's trying to console people. One man is angry that participants weren't told sooner that the race was off. He wants his money back.

"A lot of people were disappointed that we had to call off the race so suddenly," Fischer says. "We're trying to find solutions."

The race homepage broke down under all the traffic, as did mobile-phone reception at what should have been the location of the start of the race. Fischer is gradually responding to a host of individual questions.

"Most of the participants understand that we couldn't stage the race," he says. "Security is our priority."

Fischer is right. In a Frankfurt hotel, I meet Casper Folsack from Denmark. He wanted to compete in the under-23 category - the race is an important showcase for young cyclists and can be a springboard to a professional cycling career.

"Of course, my team is disappointed," he tells me. "We traveled nine hours and were looking forward to the race. But it was the right decision if the police can't guarantee our safety.

Folsbach also has a theory about why a cycling race may have been the target for a terrorist attack.

"I think the terrorists wanted to attract as much attention as possible," he says. "So they selected a large-scale event with a heavy media presence."

Questions instead of a race

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Dylan Page can only shake his head. The young cyclist has come all the way from Switzerland and is visibly upset.

"I was so motivated, and now I'm just disappointed," he says. "All that way for nothing."

Franco Adamo, the director of the everyman's team Strassacker, takes the cancellation more in stride, even though his team wanted to compete with 20 cyclists and defend their lead in the "German Cycling Cup."

"I can't even begin to imagine if something had happened," he says. "The safety of the participants and the onlookers has to take precedence."

He informs team members by mobile phone that they can head home. The race definitely won't be taking place this year.

What's left behind are questions. I can help but ask myself: What if a bomb had gone off, and I just happened to be riding by. An unsettling thought. Ever since the Boston marathon bombing in 2013, we know that terrorists do not shy back from attacking mass sporting events. But somehow it all seemed very far away from Germany. It's not any more. The silence of Eschborn is a very uneasy one.