Team Ineos have withdrawn from all races until 23 March following the death of sporting director Nico Portal and the “very uncertain situation” surrounding the coronavirus outbreak.
Ineos have notified cycling’s governing body the UCI and plan to return to racing at Spain’s Volta a Catalunya.
The team was due to compete in Italy’s Strade Bianche event on Saturday.
Astana Pro Team and Australian team Mitchelton-Scott have also withdrawn from all races for the next fortnight.
On Wednesday, the Italian government announced that all sport in Italy will be played behind closed doors until 3 April.
In addition to Strade Bianche, Britain’s Team Ineos will also miss France’s Paris-Nice event (8-15 March), Italy’s Tirreno-Adriatico (11-17 March) and one-day ‘monument’ Milan-San Remo (21 March), plus the Nokere Koerse and the Bredene Koksijde Classic in Belgium.
Ineos sporting director Portal died suddenly at the age of 40 on Tuesday.
The team said they had reached the decision “first and foremost to look after our team members, their family and friends, who are all grieving for a much loved team-mate”.
However, they also stated a “duty of healthcare to riders and staff” and “wider responsibilities to local communities” as the coronavirus outbreak continues to pose challenges across sport.
Team principal Sir Dave Brailsford said: “This is a uniquely sad moment for everyone at the team. We have lost someone we all loved very much and are all grieving for Nico.
“We are taking this decision to put a temporary pause on racing because of this unique set of circumstances we are facing. It is right for the team given what has happened but I also believe it is in the best interests of both cycling and the wider public.”
European races under threat
Mitchelton-Scott withdrew from nine men’s and women’s races, including Strade Bianche, specifically because of concerns over the spread of coronavirus.
Organisers RCS Sport said on Monday that Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo will still go ahead, while France’s sports minister Roxana Maracineanu said Paris-Nice would run as planned on Tuesday.
Mitchelton-Scott said they would not be competing in the events “regardless of the individual government regulations in place” because the team has “a duty of care” to its riders and staff.
Annemiek van Vleuten, who won the 2019 Strade Bianche, said: “[I’m] very sad because I was very much looking forward to race. Difficult decision to make but thanks Mitchelton-Scott for putting everyone’s health above all.”
Dutch team Jumbo-Visma also announced they would not be sending riders to Strade Bianche, while American team EF Pro Cycling told the UCI and race organisers RCS Sport they wished 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.
EF Pro Cycling team principal Jonathan Vaughters said: “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.”
On Thursday, Astana Pro Team said they would not compete in the Strade Bianche, Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico to “protect the health of our riders and staff” and limit the spread of the virus.
UAE Tour riders held in quarantine
Meanwhile, Cofidis, Groupama-FDJ and Gazprom riders and staff will be held in quarantine in the United Arab Emirates until 14 March after 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 – including two Russians, two Italians, one German and one Colombian.
The six new cases all involve people who stayed on the same floor of a hotel in Abu Dhabi so authorities have decided to keep those team members also staying on the same floor in isolation until 14 March “at latest”.
Cofidis and Groupama-FDJ said all their riders and staff have tested negative for coronavirus, though Groupama-FDJ have withdrawn from the Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico because too many of their staff and riders are still in quarantine.
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