Groupama-FDJ’s Bruno Armirail was forced to fly home in just the clothes he was wearing without any of his belongings due to the ongoing quarantine at the UAE Tour.
Following stage five of the Middle Eastern race the French rider came down with a slight cold, usually nothing to worry about, except that health authorities had detected two cases of coronavirus among the rest of the peloton and support staff that day. Therefore, Armirail was carted off to hospital while the hotel was placed on lockdown and the final two stages cancelled.
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While the rest of the teams in the race bunkered down for the quarantine, Armirail was kept in hospital on his own for four days. He was “tested, retested and re-retested” according to Groupama-FDJ boss Marc Madiot, but each time returned a negative test.
“The authorities came to look for Bruno to take him to a hospital that was not even operational anymore, which he found himself in for four days, all by himself,” Madiot told L’Équipe, with his rider eventually demanding to be released from the hospital. “He was tested, retested, retested and every time the result was negative. He ended up wondering what the hell he was doing there…and then suddenly, without explanation, they let him go.”
While a number of teams and their staff were soon allowed to go home, Cofidis, Groupama-FDJ and Gazprom-RusVelo are all still being held on the fourth floor of their hotel because they were on the same floor as the two Italian staff members who were initially suspected to have virus.
Armirail tried to return to the hotel after being released from hospital but was not allowed back inside the building. Instead, the 25-year-old had no other option but to make his way to the airport and fly home in the clothes he was wearing, shorts and a t-shirt, and without his bags. Armirail is now said to be back at his home in Pau while his team-mates, including David Gaudu and Arnaud Démare, remain locked inside their UAE hotel until the 14-day quarantine period is over.
Having numerous personnel trapped on another continent has forced Groupama-FDJ to pull out of Strade Bianche, GP Larciano and Tirreno-Adriatico, before Strade Bianche was cancelled by race organisers due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak in Italy.
“No Strade Bianche or GP Larciano [for us] this year,” Armirail said. “So I will continue my preparation for the rest of the season. Good luck to my roommate David Gaudu as well as to the entire team of riders and staff who are still stuck in the UAE for a little while. Don’t give up, you could be released any minute.”