Coronavirus: Is Italy closed for cycling?

The promoters of Italian races are likely to be forced to postpone the races in an attempt to limit the spread of coronavirus after the Italian government called a halt to all sporting and public events for a month.

RCS Sport also planned to put on the Strade Bianche men’s and women’s editions and next week’s Tirreno-Adriatico stage race because they are in central Italy, away from the northern regions of Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna where the virus took hold.

The company will instead be required, if possible, to reschedule activities at a later date. RCS Sport issued a statement on Wednesday night announcing that the Gran Fondo Strade Bianche had been cancelled, and that updates about its group of five upcoming races would be given in the coming days, while discussions with the relevant authorities would begin on Thursday morning.

The move follows a dramatic new measure put in place on Wednesday evening by the Italian Government. To help combat the spread of coronavirus, the order requires a halt to all public and sport activities that can not be held in a closed venue, and a month’s closure of schools and universities.

“Sporting events and competitions of any order or discipline, carried out in any place, public and private, are suspended,” reads the decree.

“However, the holding of events and competitions, as well as the training sessions of competitive athletes, inside sports facilities behind closed doors, will be allowed. In all cases, sports associations and clubs are required to carry out appropriate checks to limit the risk of spreading the Covid-19 virus.”

The dramatic decision by the Italian government means that some sporting events taking place in closed stadiums – such as football games – will be allowed to take place, but the essence of road racing means that it is virtually impossible to limit contact between participants, the public and race workers.

On Wednesday evening, the Italian authorities announced that the number of positive coronavirus tests has risen to 2,703, with 107 deaths and 295 people in hospital intensive care while at least 276 people have fully recovered from the virus. About 80 percent of cases occur in the regions of northern Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia Romagna, but further isolated cases are discovered hour by hour in Italy.

Because of the possibility of coronavirus, a number of teams already said they would not fly to Italy, with Mitchelton-Scott also stating that they would miss Paris-Nice and Ronde van Drenthe, Danilith Nokere Koerse and Trofeo Alfredo Binda, the women’s one-day races.

Earlier in a day full of coronavirus reports, 14 doctors from several teams–led by those from EF Pro Cycling–called on teams to stop racing because UCI and race organisers lacked a’ robust strategy’ to address concerns regarding coronavirus spread.

The UCI has since announced that while declining to cancel events, race organisers need to take a number of steps to further limit the risk of spreading coronavirus.

These steps include raising the gap between the public and riders, particularly in the start and finish zones and adhering to a strict medical protocol, and limiting the number of teams staying at the same hotel.

The UCI added that if they are unable to participate in an event for a valid reason, no team would be penalised financially or when their sporting results are included in rankings.

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