Cyclists on the road during UAE Tour Stage 2
Cyclists on the road during UAE Tour Stage 2 Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: There was an air of calm around the cyclists and organisers of the UAE Tour after the regrettable but necessary decision to cancel the remaining stages of the competition due to growing fears over the coronavirus outbreak

Abu Dhabi Sports Council announced late on Thursday night that the remaining rounds of the 2020 UAE Tour were called off after two participants from the Italian team tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The council said on Thursday that two members from the participating Italian team have been confirmed as having the COVID-19. All riders, team members, media and Tour officials who have been in contact with the riders have been tested.

“The decision has been taken to ensure protection of all the race’s participants,” said ADSC, adding that “safety comes at the top of all priorities.”

Top cyclists Chris Froome — a four-time Tour de France winner — and Mark Cavendish — one of the sport’s greatest sprinters — were among those tested as all riders and staff were confined to their rooms at the Crowne Royal Plaza Abu Dhabi Yas Island.

Chris Froome gives a wave before the start of Stage 2 to Hatta Dam
Chris Froome gives a wave before the start of Stage 2 of UAE Rout to Hatta Dam. The UAE Tour has been suspended after two Italian participants (members of the technical team) were found to have contracted coronavirus. Image Credit: AFP

There are concerns that the outbreak could cause cancellations at future events, with the Tour de France and UCI world track championships in Berlin beginning soon.

Froome was particularly frustrated as he was using the UAE Tour as a comeback event as he bids to get up to full fitness ahead of the Tour de France. But he urged caution and insisted it was in the interests of all to halt the race.

“It’s a shame that the UAETour has been cancelled but public health must come first,” the Team Ineos rider tweeted on Thursday night. “We are all awaiting testing and will remain at the hotel until further notice. I hope those affected make a speedy recovery and there aren’t any further cases #coronavirus.”

The ministry of health and prevention said they are examining “all the race’s participants, administrative staff and organisers” and was prepared to introduce quarantine measures to prevent any potential spread of the virus.”

Adam Yates wins Stage 3 of the UAE Tour
Adam Yates wins Stage 3 of the UAE Tour Image Credit: UAE Tour

Adam Yates riding for Mitchelton-Scott was in the leader’s red jersey following Thursday’s stage five to Jebel Hafeet and will be awarded the title.

A statement from the UAE Tour’s Race Direction and the President of the Commissaries Panel read: “Following the decision by the relevant local authorities to cancel the last two stages of the 2020 UAE Tour, it is confirmed that the final results of the race are those obtained after stage 5, as per article 2.2.029.”

Many teams gave their support to the decision, with the Jumbo-Visma team said: “We have taken note of the cancellation of the UAE Tour due to the occurrence of the coronavirus. We wish all the people involved the very best, awaiting further developments.”

Yates’ Mitchelton-Scott team tweeted: “#UAETour The final two days of racing is cancelled due to concerns around Coronavirus. Riders and staff remain in the hotel and will be tested shortly, with their health taking priority. We hope anyone affected makes a fast recovery.

The Bora-Hansgrohe officials added: “The organisers of UAE Tour have officially confirmed that the remaining two stages of the UAE Tour 2020 have been cancelled due to a #coronavirus outbreak. We are awaiting further developments and will keep you updated.”

Froome’s Team Ineos probably put it best when they said: “Following the cancellation of the #UAETour we are monitoring the situation closely. We will follow the guidance of the relevant authorities and support them in managing this situation. The health and safety of all staff and riders is paramount.”