'The complete organisation for Strade Bianche and Milan-San Remo is stuck in the UAE': Fears grow for March's Italian races

RCS, who organise both the UAE Tour and Strade Bianche, are supposed to return to Italy following the end of the Middle Eastern race on Saturday but find themselves quarantined inside their hotel

Ambulance at the scene at the Crowne Plaza hotel at Yas Island Abu Dhabi, where two Italian cyclists participating in the UAE Tour tested positive for COVID-19 coronavirus disease, prompting the cancellation of the final stages of the cycling event (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)
(Image credit: AFP via Getty Images)

While the cycling world - including the 600 riders, team staff and members of the media currently in quarantine - wait for updates on the UAE Tour coronavirus outbreak, one team manager has highlighted the knock-on effect this situation could have on the upcoming calendar.

RCS, the Italian company who organise the UAE Tour, Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan - San Remo, are currently on lockdown inside their hotel. They were originally expecting to return to Italy following the conclusion of the Middle Eastern stage race in time for Strade Bianche next week on Saturday March 7 but it is currently unclear when they will be allowed to leave the hotel, let alone the country.

Jumbo-Visma team manager Grischa Niermann was asked by NOS about the potential ramifications of this situation on the cycling calendar, and the German said he expects issues to arise.

"It will certainly be a problem, but it will become clear in the coming days what is going on," Niermann said. "The complete organisation of Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo is currently stuck in the UAE and they are also not allowed to leave their hotel."

>>> ‘I could see something was brewing but didn’t think it was coronavirus’: Inside the hotel on lockdown at the UAE Tour

After Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico follows on March 11 -17, with Milan - San Remo the first scheduled Monument of the year on March 21.

It's been a long 20 hours for those involved with the race, with Niermann saying an emergency meeting was called the evening following stage five and all riders were woken at 1am to be tested for coronavirus. With 20 squads of seven riders present, as well as their large contingents of back-room staff, Niermann says his team weren't tested until 5am.

"The team leaders were convened last night for an emergency meeting with the organization. There we were told that there are two cases of coronavirus infection within the peloton," Niermann said. "We woke up all riders around one o'clock in the morning and gave the information to them. We were all tested at around five in the morning."

While medical staff work their way through testing the estimated 600 people involved with the race, a timeline for when they can expect results has not been confirmed. Therefore, it has become a waiting game as everyone who remains on lockdown inside their hotels.

"We are not being informed at the moment, but I also think that's simply because the authorities do not have any new information. We are being treated really well here but we would also like to know more. I only fear that no more information is currently available," Niermann said.

"In principle, the mood is good, we are making the best of it here. No one is sick, no one feels bad. We have now been locked up for half a day and obviously do not hope it will be two weeks."

RCS are yet to comment on how the current situation will affect the upcoming Italian races, but their earlier statement indicated safety will be prioritised and all administrative staff would be screened to prevent the spread of the virus.

The statement read: "The decision has been taken to ensure the protection of all the race's participants. Safety comes at the top of all priorities.

"In the meantime, the Ministry of Health and Prevention said that all the race's participants, administrative staff and organisers will be examined through the continuous periodic screening being conducted, and all needed procedures, including quarantine measures, will be taken to ensure viral suppression and curb the spread of its outbreak in coordination with all health and other authorities concerned in the country."

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