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Patrick Lefevere worried July return to racing could see Covid-19 spike

Joe Robinson
29 Jun 2020

Deceuninck-QuickStep boss hopes is does not lead to spike of infections like tennis

Deceuninck-QuickStep team manager Patrick Lefevere is worried that a return to racing in July could risk a spike in coronavirus cases, similar to that of Novak Djokovic's recent tennis tournament.

The Serbian, who is ranked number 1 in the world, hosted the Adria Tour tennis tournament in Serbia and Croatia earlier this month. It was cancelled after two games due to Djokovic and other players and staff testing positive for the virus.

The outbreak saw officials suspend all tennis tournaments with immediate effect.

Lefevere's men return to racing next Sunday at the Grote Prijs Vermac Kermesse in Belgium alongside Lotto-Soudal and Alpecin-Fenix, a month before the WorldTour resumes at Strade Bianche on 1st August.

With the impending return to racing, Lefevere hopes that cycling sees what happened in tennis and uses it as a precaution for its return.

'My worst nightmare is that the races in July – like in tennis – lead to infections,' Lefevere wrote in Het Nieuwsblad. 'Let it be a lesson for all cycling races that will start again in July. Coronavirus clusters are now shooting up like mushrooms, but I hope that enough attention is paid to prevention.

'I have said it before, at races the attention to hygiene and the risk of contamination is a kind of second nature. In tennis – with the richest sponsors in the world – you may think that you are untouchable.'

Cycling has already returned in the form of the Slovenian National Championship road race and time trial – won by Primoz Roglic and Tadej Pogacar respectively. Live-streamed footage from the road race showed large crowds in parts not adhering to social distancing measures.

The worry is that for cycling, with it being practically impossible to take place 'behind close doors', it is left exposed to outbreaks of the virus.

Compare it to football, which has returned across Europe this month, where teams are able to play all fixtures without crowds, and remain in small, isolated training and playing bubbles while being tested on a regular basis.

Cycling teams and even the UCI are trying to implement similar protocols, notably the bubble approach, but it is more complex for a sport that can see one team's riders live across the world.

Deceuninck-QuickStep are trying to reduce risk by hosting a full team training camp in which all riders and staff will be present. This will take place from 6th to 23rd July in the Italian Dolomites.

As well as having all riders and staff together in a 'bubble', Lefevere also revealed they would be regularly testing all in attendance.

'By going on a collective camp, the entire team can remain in the same bubble. That seems to me to be the safest and certainly the most transparent approach,' Lefevere explained.

'Other teams may differentiate between different programmes, we prefer to keep everyone together for the time being. We will also be testing regularly in the coming weeks.'