Michael Mørkøv has been cleared to race the world track championships Saturday after health authorities report that no one is showing traces of the coronavirus that forced the cancellation of the UAE Tour this week.
The Dane had traveled to Berlin from the UAE Tour, where he raced the opening four stages, just ahead of a health scare Thursday that forced authorities to shut down the WorldTour race in Abu Dhabi.
In the quickly unfolding international drama, the Danish rider was kept in isolation in a Berlin hotel room while authorities in Abu Dhabi canceled the race with two stages to go, and forced riders, staffers and journalists into a quarantine. Authorities conducted a first round of controls overnight, and on Saturday, health officials confirmed that 167 initial tests had returned negative. Back in Germany, the UCI declared Saturday morning that Mørkøv was free to take a scheduled start in Sunday’s men’s Madison race.
“We’ve been in close contact with the UCI who have been helping us and trying to clear me to race here,” Mørkøv told reporters Saturday. “I’m really happy how the case went. Personally, I wouldn’t be feeling well if I was jeopardizing anybody with the risk of bringing this virus around me.”
Mørkøv has been at the eye of a coronavirus hurricane that’s swept cycling over the past 72 hours, revealing how tenuous racing’s international calendar might be as the coronavirus scare continues to sweep the globe.
Mørkøv traveled from the UAE Tour after racing the first four stages, and arrived Thursday in Berlin. In fact, he was spotted inside the Berlin velodrome on Thursday evening celebrating his teammates’ victory in the men’s team pursuit. It was later that night that word spread of possible contagion among team staffers at the UAE Tour.
Once the lockdown and race cancellation were confirmed, Mørkøv went into voluntary isolation inside his Berlin hotel as the drama played out across the globe.
Health authorities inside the United Arab Emirates did not want to take any risks. Once there were reports that some team staffers traveling from Italy were not feeling well, officials there moved quickly to cancel the remaining stages and put the entire race entourage along with other hotel guests under quarantine Thursday night.
The world watched as health officials dressed in hazardous-material suits filed in and out of hotels on Yas Island near Abu Dhabi. Authorities conducted health controls starting Saturday under a haze of confusion, worry and conflicting stories about what might be happening to riders, staffers and everyone else in the race entourage.
Mørkøv, meanwhile, had already shipped out of Abu Dhabi and arrived in Germany just hours ahead of the coronavirus scare. Once he went into voluntary isolation, he watched with worry as the drama played out surrounding the highly contagious coronavirus.
The UCI scrambled to work with authorities on both sides of the globe to try to assure public safety as well as keep the track cycling world championships on track. It came down to the wire as officials in Berlin waited for the first wave of results to come back Saturday morning from Abu Dhabi. If others were infected, Mørkøv would not be allowed to race.
With the Dane showing no hints of infection or symptoms of the flu, the UCI gave him the green light to race as planned when he’s heavily favored for Sunday’s Madison along with Lasse Norman Hansen.
“Of course I was really nervous it would drag on and we would have to postpone the decision until tomorrow morning which would make it really difficult for racing,” Mørkøv said. “I don’t believe it will affect my race tomorrow, maybe only in a positive way. Maybe I’m even more motivated for a good race tomorrow than I was before I came here. Now I feel really privileged I get to race.”
While Mørkøv will be racing Sunday, everyone in the race entourage in Abu Dhabi remain unsure about what will happen next. Despite the negative round of test results, there is still no definitive plans to evacuate riders, staffers and journalists who remain under quarantine inside two hotels.
In light of the latest test results, the UCI insists that the Berlin track worlds should be able to conclude its final two days of competition without disruption.
Full UCI statement
“UCI clarification regarding the health situation at the 2020 UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Berlin in connection with the epidemic linked to the new coronavirus
“The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) wishes to clarify that the participants in the 2020 UCI Track World Championships presented by Tissot, currently underway in Berlin (Germany), do not present, to date, any risk of contamination and spread to the virus SARS-CoV-2 other than that found for the general population.
“Following the cancellation of the UAE Tour on Thursday evening, after a suspicion of cases of coronavirus among the teams present, the UCI was awaiting the results of the diagnostic tests carried out in order to decide on the measures to be taken in Berlin.
“According to an official statement issued by the Emirate’s health authorities on Saturday, the tests were all negative for 167 people in quarantine.
“In the meantime, the person who has been in the United Arab Emirates for the past few days and who is currently in Berlin, has been subject to preventive quota measures, despite the absence of any clinical sign suggesting Covid-19. The rider present in Berlin is currently in excellent health, with no suspicious clinical signs, and we are also guaranteed that he has not contacted the two members of the management of a team participating in the UAE Tour, originally suspected of coronavirus. Based on these elements, the UCI and the Organising Committee have judged that the person who has been the subject of prophylactic measures is not at risk. The latter is therefore free in his movements and activities, including within the velodrome.
“The UCI and the parties concerned will continue to sensitize the delegations present to the individual preventive measures recommended before the Championships and during the running of the competitions. These measures are of primary importance in order to reduce the risks of spreading the virus.
“The UCI would like to emphasize that the situation has been brought under control to date and that the safety of athletes, teams and anyone present in Berlin is ensured.”