There will be plenty of cycling stars absent from prestigious upcoming races, as nine WorldTeams have pulled out of events so far because of coronavirus.
Covid-19 virus has had a major impact on pro cycling, with a number of races worldwide being postponed over health concerns, most notably Strade Bianche.
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Teams have also been taking upon themselves to withdraw from races to protect their riders and to reduce any further spread of the illness, but can they be punished for opting to skip events?
So far, Team Ineos has withdrawn from all races until March 23, while Ag2r La Mondiale, Astana, EF Pro Cycling, Groupama-FDJ, Jumbo-Visma, Mitchelton-Scott, Sunweb, and UAE Team Emirates are all pulling out of Tirreno-Adriatico.
Astana,Ineos and UAE have also withdrawn from Paris-Nice.
According to the UCI rules, any WorldTeams absent from a race without valid reason could be fined between 10,000 and 20,000 Swiss Francs (£16,000), with fines for stage races multiplied by the number of days left to race.
But a team can be absent from a race under two conditions, the rules state – if the WorldTeam submits a formal request to the UCI and if the race organiser agrees in writing to the withdrawal.
Cycling’s international governing body has also released new guidance for teams in the wake of the coronavirus situation, saying teams must inform the UCI as soon as possible if they are not willing or not able to race.
The UCI said: “If the organisers are required, on decision by their authorities, to refuse the participation of certain teams or if teams find themselves unable to take part in an event for a valid reason, the UCI will need to be informed rapidly. In such a situation, it will take necessary measures, on a case-by-case basis, to ensure that no team is penalised, either financially or when their sporting results are considered, in particular when it comes to evaluating their UCI WorldTeam or UCI ProTeam status.”
Team Ineos said they have informed the UCI of its decision not to race, while Jumbo-Visma said they are in close contact with the governing body.
However, we are still awaiting further updates about whether the upcoming races will be going ahead, after RCS Sport opted to cancel Strade Bianche.