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Coronavirus quarantine issues already hitting pro cycling's return

Joe Robinson
27 Jul 2020

Riders and staff present at the Sibiu Tour in Romania barred from attending Strade Bianche and Milan-San Remo

The first men's stage race back after competition was paused due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has already presented quarantine quandaries for teams and riders.

Last week, stage racing resumed for the men's peloton in Romania with the 2.1 Sibiu Tour. It saw two WorldTour teams line-up, Bora-Hansgrohe and Israel Start-Up Nation, as well as ProTeam Bardiani-CSF for the four-day, five-stage race.

The race was dominated by Bora-Hansgrohe on the road, the German team winning four of the five stages as well as the overall win with Austrian champion Gregor Muhlberger.

However, it could be matters off the bike that will be the lasting memories of this racing return as it has now been established that any rider or staff member present in Romania will not be able to compete in either Strade Bianche or Milan-San Remo.

That is because Italy's health minister Roberto Speranza has decreed that anybody returning from Romania to Italy will now have to enter into a 14-day quarantine stating that 'the virus is not defeated and continues to circulate'.

Despite the UCI and Romanian authorities signing off on the Sibiu Tour taking place, the Eastern European country continued to record an average of 1,000 new Covid-19 cases per day last week, a rate that increased by 20% from the week prior.

Additionally, after a court judged it to be illegal to retain Covid-positive patients in hospital, it was reported that 757 patients discharged themselves overnight.

This means any staff or rider from Bora-Hansgrohe or Israel Start-Up Nation who attended the Sibiu Tour will now be barred from attending Strade Bianche or Milan-San Remo, on 1st and 8th August respectively.

Before the event had even begun, Alpecin-Fenix and star rider Mathieu van der Poel withdrew from the race after advice from the Dutch Government stipulated 'only necessary' travel to Romania should be undertaken. Additionally, Italian ProTeam Androni Giocattoli Sidermec also withdrew.

The UCI has implemented a series of protocols for races and teams to adhere to in order to allow racing's return such as mandatory mask wearing before and after races and the operation of team and race 'bubbles'.

Yet, within that, teams have begun following their own stricter rules which manifested in CCC-Liv last week withdrawing from the Emakumeen Nafarroako Klasikoa on Thursday and the Klasikoa Navarra races, both eventually won by Annemiek van Vleuten.

The team manager Eric van den Boom explained the team's rationale, saying increased Covid cases in the Navarre region of Spain encouraged their withdrawal.

'We have set ourselves a very strict health protocol in recent months,' Van den Boom said. 'All this to minimise the risks of contamination with Covid-19. We were delighted to finally be able to race again; however on Wednesday, it turned out that the health risks in the Navarre region are too great.

'We’ve followed all protocols and know from the daily health monitoring of riders and staff that none of us are infected with Covid-19. Should we enter the race on Thursday, we will come into contact with riders who, as it turns out, might not have undergone the mandatory RT-PCR test.

'In addition, the number of infections at the location of the races has considerably increased in two days.'

The Cyclists' Alliance group released a statement questioning whether race organisers had sufficiently followed the protocols that were supposed to be set.