A sports director for Cofidis, who is currently on lockdown with the team in their hotel at the UAE Tour, has threatened to go on hunger strike if the coronavirus quarantine doesn't end soon.
Roberto Damiani, who has been stuck on the fourth floor of the hotel since Thursday night, has written an impassioned open letter on Italian website Tutto Bici (opens in new tab) explaining his team's plight.
While Cofidis riders Nathan Haas and Attilio Viviani have been attempting to keep things light (opens in new tab) during their time indoors, Damiani says the quarantine has "passed the limit of decency".
Many of the 600 riders, staff and journalists who were at the Middle Eastern stage race had been given the all-clear to leave their hotels on Saturday night after returning negative tests for coronavirus, but ambulances soon returned for re-testing after some people came up positive.
Damiani says his team have all tested negative but have been kept back along with two more teams as other hotel guests on their floor were reported to have tested positive. He argues that just because they shared the same floor does not increase the risk compared with everyone else in the hotel who may have also interacted with them.
While Damiani does not blame race organisers RCS, saying they've done all the can to help the situation, he complains their rooms haven't been cleaned and rubbish is piling up outside their doors. He also says his riders are losing the form they've been working hard for, since they can't get outside to train on their bikes.
His open letter in full reads:
"Dear director, I am writing to you because I believe that we have now passed the limit of decency, albeit in the name of public health and the danger of contamination.
"You already know what has happened in recent days but to date only the members of three teams are forced to stay in their rooms for fear of coronavirus infection, since in two teams they have had three people with feverish states.
"People believed to be suffering from the coronavirus were hospitalised and excluded. These were normal pathologies normally treatable. I want to clarify that the Cofidis team has never had any problems and that to date we are confined here only to have been housed on the fourth floor, with the other two teams, without taking into consideration that for a week at least about 500 people met and lived together for several hours a day.
"I must say that RCS, as an organiser, is doing everything to solve the problem but they too seem to be bumping into a rubber wall. I send you a copy of the table with the negative results of the tests, which each team had to extrapolate personally name by name, from a single computer made available by the authorities who assert that without this document it will not be possible to start from here.
"I also send you attached photos of breakfast and lunch brought to us today to the rooms from which we cannot leave. The rooms have never been cleaned and there are heaps of rubbish in the corridor.
"These are the material problems that are associated with the psychological management of the problem in addition to the fact that in these conditions athletes are losing all the work done so far in races and training.
"I inform you that if in the next few hours the situation is not resolved, I will start a hunger strike to defend at least the riders and the staff for whom I am directly responsible for this race."
In some better news, RCS have said Milan – San Remo, Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico are all going ahead as planned despite fears the coronavirus could cause their cancellation.
RCS emailed teams on Monday morning with the update, although warned the situation could change at any moment.
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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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