Coronavirus: UAE Tour riders to be held in quarantine until 14 March

Groupama-FDJ riders Ramon Sinkeldam (left) and Arnaud Demare (right) at the UAE Tour

Cofidis and Groupama-FDJ riders and staff will be held in quarantine in the United Arab Emirates until 14 March.

The final two stages of the UAE Tour were cancelled because of two cases of coronavirus among team staff members.

On Tuesday, UAE authorities announced six more cases connected to the race.

The majority of riders, staff and media were sent home after testing last week, but French teams Cofidis and Groupama-FDJ, Team UAE Emirates and Russian team Gazprom remain in quarantine.

Cofidis and Groupama-FDJ said all their riders and staff have tested negative for coronavirus but they have been told by the International Cycling Union (UCI) to stay in isolation until Saturday, 14 March.

“It’s a kind of relief,” said Cofidis president Thierry Vittu.

“What was difficult to live with so far was the absence of a deadline and the permanent wait for a close outcome that never came – it was a source of anxiety and stress.

“Now we know where we stand, and even if the confinement in the room continues, everyone will manage to find occupations, distractions, activities.”

Groupama-FDJ said they “will not comment” on this decision that “goes beyond the sport itself” but added they “express our support to all the people facing this tough situation.”

Vittu has previously said his riders were being “held against their will” and “treated like plague victims” in the hotel.

“We already tell ourselves that, in a few months, we will be laughing about it among ourselves,” he said on Wednesday.

Gazprom and Team UAE Emirates have yet to comment. The UAE team were allowed to leave after testing but chose to stay as a precaution.

Italian UAE Team Emirates rider Diego Ulissi missed the birth of his daughter on Tuesday.

The UAE’s ministry of health and prevention said the six news cases include two Russians, two Italians, one German and one Colombian.

“The patients were connected to the two previously announced cases associated with the cycling event, the UAE Tour,” it added.

“The cases are being monitored, and individuals are currently in a stable condition and are receiving all necessary health care required.”

Will Italian races be cancelled?

RCS Sport said on Monday that three major races taking place in Italy this month will go ahead – the men’s and women’s one-day race Strade Bianche on Saturday, stage race Tirreno-Adriatico (11-17 March) and one-day ‘monument’ classic Milan-San Remo (21 March).

However, Dutch team Jumbo-Visma said on Tuesday they will not be sending riders to Strade Bianche because of concerns over the spread of coronavirus.

“We know that any team that goes to Italy might probably be prevented from racing in any other country,” they said.

“The focus has to be on salvaging the bulk of the season, not a handful of races.”

Jumbo-Visma added it is “likely that the same decision will apply to other Italian races in March” but they are awaiting further updates from the Italian government.

It follows American team EF Pro Cycling asking the UCI and race organisers RCS Sport to withdraw from all three races, while women’s team Parkhotel Valkenburg have announced they will not compete at Strade Bianche or Trofea Alfredo Binda on 22 March.

Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte is set to announce more measures to combat the coronavirus outbreak, which could include sporting events being cancelled.

Italy is the worst-hit European country with some 2,260 cases and 79 deaths so far, including more than 20 in the past 24 hours.

Many football matches in Italy have been postponed or played behind closed doors.

EF Pro Cycling team principal Jonathan Vaughters said he had changed his mind “180 degrees” after initially welcoming the races going ahead.

“I listened and learned,” he posted on Twitter. “This isn’t about panic. This is about helping local medical efforts to slow spread. So they can keep up with demand. It’s not being afraid. It’s being responsible.”