Much was made in the build-up to the Italian March races of Philippe Gilbert’s opportunity to become only the fourth rider in history to secure victory in all five Monuments.
Milan – San Remo was the final one to tick off after his 2019 Paris-Roubaix victory, and a new three-year contract with Lotto-Soudal gave his endeavour hope. The developing coronavirus outbreak in Italy, however, means the 37-year-old will have to spend another year dreaming after the one-day race was cancelled alongside Tirreno-Adriatico and Strade Bianche.
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“Like everyone else, I watched how sporting events were cancelled, now including Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-Sanremo,” Gilbert told Het Nieuwsblad. “Peoples’ health is paramount. So I fully understand the decision.”
Race organisers RCS Sport will now ask the UCI to find space in the calendar for the races later in the year, with October being suggested as a possible solution.
“There is now talk of a possible later date in the season, but I find it very difficult to say anything about it,” Gilbert added. “People speak conditionally and that is lost time. Just like everyone else, I hope that the season and daily life will resume in a normal way as quickly as possible.”
Others are more optimistic. “The World Championships in Qatar took place on October 16 in 2016,” Deceuninck – Quick-Step coach Koen Pelgrim explained. “Riders can still really recharge for an important race.”
The UCI say they are waiting to see how many races end up being cancelled due to the coronavirus, with an already packed calendar making inserting even a few races a delicate affair. “It is still too premature to comment on that,” said President of the UCI Road Commission Tom Van Damme. “We first have to wait and see how many races will be cancelled.
“Suppose twenty more cancellations are added, where are we going to put them? The calendar is already packed, it is not possible to simply insert twenty races. If the Italian federation were to submit a file to the UCI, it would first investigate whether that relocated race would not end up in the way of any other races.”