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Education First request to skip Italian races due to coronavirus concerns

American team following advice to avoid 'all non-essential travel to Italy'

Joe Robinson
4 Mar 2020

American WorldTour team Education First have requested to withdraw from the upcoming Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak in Italy.

Reported by the Wall Street Journal, it is believed the team sent a letter to the UCI to express concerns over the continuing health crisis. The letter also stated that due to a recommendation from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to avoid 'all non-essential travel to Italy', the team would like to skip the three WorldTour events without punishment.

'We think it best to follow this advice and make all efforts to keep our staff and riders healthy and to help ensure they are not at risk of transmitting the virus,' said EF’s letter, according to the Journal.

'The team feels a responsibility to the greater public health efforts in place across affected areas, and we feel a responsibility to our fans and to the people of the towns and cities we travel to as part of the WorldTour.'

Team manager Jonathan Vaughters then confirmed the team's concerns on Twitter.

Acknowledging the news the team were asking to be excused, he wrote: 'We watched as EF China pivoted almost 200,000 students from brick/mortar English classes to online in three weeks and realised this problem needs a creative, leadership driven solution.'

'While this was a tough call, we are happy to have an owner in EF that backs bold decisions.'

This came just 24 hours after Vaughters had tweeted his delight at RCS going ahead with the races, stating 'accepting risk is part of living'. Vaughters has since acknowledged this u-turn saying he has since 'learned' about the situation.

Being part of the WorldTour, Education First are obliged to field a team at every WorldTour race in the calendar. If they were to not, without permission from the UCI, it is likely they would incur a punishment.

As of today, RCS is still confident that the men's and women's Strade Bianche will take place this Saturday as well as the races later in the month. 

So far, three races have been cancelled or postponed because of the ongoing coronavirus issue. The Tour of Hainan and women's Tour of Chongming were both scraped while the UAE Tour was cancelled after Stage 5 due to two confirmed cases.

This resulted in the entire race peloton, staff, organisers and journalists being placed into quarantine. Since then, there have been a further six confirmed cases.