Cycling fans have more reason to be excited, as Colombia’s biggest stars have successfully made it back to Europe ready to race.
The coronavirus pandemic had caused concerns that pros from outside Europe may struggle to meet up with their teams in time for the season restart, as air travel has been restricted between many countries.
But despite the limitations on travel between Colombia and Europe, pro riders were given special permission to board a flight from the capital Bogota to Madrid, Spain, in order to re-join their teams ready for WorldTour racing from August 1.
The Avianca Airlines flight, which left Colombia on Sunday (July 18) and landed on Monday (July 20), carried a number of Grand Tour leaders and sprint stars, including Egan Bernal (Team Ineos) and Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic).
Minister of sport in Colombia, Ernesto Lucena Barrero said: “Thanks to teamwork, led by the national government, through the ministry, as well as the Foreign Ministry, the embassies of Spain and Colombia and the support of Avianca, our athletes will be able to come to Europe to meet the competition schedules, something fundamental in its development and process, altered in this first semester by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The flight carried Bernal, Quintana, Rigaberto Urán (EF Pro Cycling), Miguel Ángel López (Astana), Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) and Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott), as well as sport stars from basketball and football.
Bernal, the reigning Tour de France champion, is scheduled to race La Route d’Occitanie from August 1, before heading to the Tour de l’Ain, the Critérium du Dauphiné and then defending his yellow jersey from August 29.
Bernal is set to restart his racing season at the Mont Ventoux one-day race, before he also turns his focus to the Tour.
Richard Carapaz, winner of the 2019 Giro d’Italia, was initially expected to travel 900km from Ecuador to the Colombian capital by bike and car in order to make the flight.
However it later emerged that the Team Ineos rider would be able to fly directly from his home nation to Spain to join his team-mates, ready to defend his pink jersey later in the year.