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Israel-Premier Tech to skip Tour of Flanders

Illness, injury and COVID cases see WorldTour squad sidelined for Sunday's monument.

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Israel-Premier Tech confirmed Friday that it would be pulling out of the Tour of Flanders.

The WorldTour team has been ravaged by illness, injury and COVID cases, leaving the squad short-handed for Sunday’s race.

“This is a very regrettable situation and we are extremely disappointed to have to withdraw from De Ronde van Vlaanderen,” said general manager Kjell Carlström.

“This decision has not been taken lightly but we feel this is our only option at this stage. It is no secret we have had COVID and other illnesses and also crash-induced injuries wiping out the majority of our riders at one stage or another in recent weeks.

“Right now, we have very few healthy riders who could take to the start line, but they are now close contacts, and it is out of respect for the race and the rest of the peloton that we are making this decision. It is our duty of care to the other teams to not be willingly sending riders who have been exposed to COVID into a race.”

Israel-Premier Tech felt the force of a sickness sweeping through the spring peloton more than most.

Two of its riders were last-minute non-starters ahead of Dwars door Vlaanderen this week, leaving just three riders to start Wednesday’s mid-week classic, where other teams raced with seven. Earlier this month, Hugo Houle was its only rider that made it through a melting pot of malaise at Paris-Nice.

Israel Premier Tech also confirmed it will withdraw from Scheldeprijs next week.

“By withdrawing from the race, we are allowing our cobbled classics riders to recover and hit the reset button,” Carlström said. “No one is more disappointed than us but hopefully, this decision will allow us to save the remainder of the spring season and get back on track.”

Thursday also saw news that Flanders top-favorite Wout van Aert is currently “unlikely” to race due to sickness, while rising U.S. cobble-basher Quinn Simmons was forced to withdraw for similar reasons.