PARIS (Reuters) - Four teams, including Britain’s Ineos, have pulled put of several cycling races in Italy under threat because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Organisers RCS said on Wednesday they would communicate updates and details in the coming days, following meetings with the authorities, starting with the Prefecture of Siena on Thursday.
Italy has ordered that all sporting events be held without fans in a bid to curb Europe’s worst coronavirus outbreak.
Three teams had already pulled out of Saturday’s Strade Bianche, with Groupama-FDJ saying that with several team members being in quarantine in Abu Dhabi following the cancellation of the UAE Tour, they did not have the resources to set up a competitive team.
Team Ineos cited the coronavirus situation as one of two reasons for their withdrawal until March 23 from all racing following the death of the team’s sports director Nicolas Portal on Tuesday.
“We have taken this decision given the unique set of circumstances we are facing following yesterday’s tragic news about Nico Portal,” Ineos said in a statement.
“And clearly we recognize there is also a very uncertain situation with Coronavirus more widely.”
Ineos will not take part in the Paris-Nice stage race in France starting on Sunday. Tour de France winner and Ineos team leader Egan Bernal was the defending champion.
Dutch team Jumbo Visma were the first to pull out of Strade Bianche on a day of uncertainty.
“Team Jumbo-Visma will not participate in Strade Bianche and GP Industria this weekend,” Jumbo-Visma said in a statement.
“The decision has been taken on medical advice, the recommendation of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as on practical grounds.
“It’s likely that the same decision will apply to other Italian races in March. However, we are also awaiting messages from the Italian government.”
Strade Bianche is, along with Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-Sanremo, one of three major Italian races in March and Mauro Vegni, the head of RCS, said they could all be canceled.
“Undoubtedly the news emerging from the coronavirus is clear: the indications from the Italian scientific committee leave little space room for manoeuvre and if they are to be adopted by the government we would be forced to cancel those three events,” Vegni was quoted as saying by cycling website Tuttobiciweb.
Italy has been the European country worst affected by the coronavirus outbreak, with over 100 deaths and more than 3,000 cases.
“Together with the management of our team, I am constantly considering and acting in the interest of the health and working conditions of our riders and staff members. That includes, for example, preventing them from quarantine abroad,” Jumbo Visma team general manager Richard Plugge said.
“We have to look at the broader picture and take responsibility for the health of riders, staff and fans.”
Mitchelton-Scott confirmed here they have pulled out of seven other races scheduled until March 22 as a precautionary measure in response to the outbreak.
Their men’s team will be absent from GP Industria, Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-Sanremo, while the women’s team will miss Ronde van Drenthe, Danilith Nokere Koerse and the Trofeo Alfredo Binda.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; additional reporting by Hardik Vyas; editing by Pritha Sarkar and Ed Osmond