David Lappartient, president of the UCI, has said it may well not be possible to reschedule races that are cancelled because of the spread of the coronavirus.
Speaking to a small group of journalists at the Track World Championships in Berlin, the Frenchman said the effect on the sport of the on going spread of the virus could be “huge”.
Last week, the final stages of the UAE Tour were cancelled due to two suspected cases of coronavirus among people working on the race. Some teams, journalists and staff are still being kept in quarantine in Abu Dhabi.
Several races in China, the country where the virus first appeared, have also been scrapped.
France and Switzerland are among countries that have started to impose bans on large gatherings of people in an effort to slow the spread and prevent health services from being overwhelmed.
There are fears that coronavirus will start to effect the European calendar of racing, which includes most of the sport’s highest profile races. Strade Bianche, the second European WorldTour race of the season, is due to take place this coming weekend in the north of Italy, not far from an area experiencing a major outbreak. Milan, the start town of historic Milan-San Remo on March 21, is at the Italian outbreak’s epicentre.
When asked if Strade Bianche could be rescheduled Lappartient said: “It depends. At the moment the calendar is full, if you want to relocate races it’s much later in the season and you won’t have races in November or December.”
The cancellation of the finale of the UAE Tour shows just how precarious deciding to cancel races due to the virus is. Lappartient said: “We are in touch with [UAER Topur organiser] RCS with this. It’s all under the public authorities.
“What was a bit surprising was that we had a press release that said there were two positive cases for coronavirus and it doesn’t seem that, finally, they were positives… There is nothing we [the UCI] can do really except to follow the local authorities.”
While safety is upmost in the minds of organisers, teams and the UCI; cancelling or even rescheduling races is likely to have a negative effect on the already precarious economy of the sport. Lappartient said: “When you have a look on what the potential effects are in the season they can be they’re huge,” said Lappartient before cautioning against forecasting the effect of a fast moving situation.
He added: “It’s a danger for the economy worldwide, not just for the sport. Sport is just one part of this. You can see the first effects on the economy already.”