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One of cycling’s most dramatic race days — Italy’s Strade Bianche — will not be raced Saturday.
Despite holding out hope, race officials pulled the plug on men’s and women’s races scheduled Saturday for Strade Bianche after facing a widening coronavirus crisis across Italy. RCS Sport officials met with local authorities in Sienna on Thursday morning. Sources confirmed to VeloNews that teams have been notified the race will not be held.
Italian officials are expected to make a decision on other upcoming races on the Italian calendar, including Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo, in the coming days. RCS Sport already confirmed they are studying options about scheduling the races this fall.
“Until yesterday, we were convinced we could do it,” Sienna mayor Luigi De Mossi told a local paper. “Then came the decree and a series of health challenges that led us to make this decision, even if everyone wanted to race. We hope this race will only be postponed and not canceled.”
After confirming Saturday’s events will be canceled, RCS Sport said it would send a request to the UCI, via the Italian Cycling Federation, to allocate a new date on the international cycling calendar for Strade Bianche and Strade Bianche Women Elite.
There was confusion leading up to Thursday’s confirmation. Overnight, Italian authorities had imposed a ban on large-scale public activities to try to stem the spread of the highly contagious virus, putting new pressure on RCS Sport. A popular gran fondo event on the gravel roads around Sienna scheduled for Sunday was also canceled.
Also Wednesday, the UCI stated it would cede the decision to local health agencies and governments on whether or not races on the international calendar would be affected.
Teams were left to make the decision on their own. Several teams had already decided they would not participate in Strade Bianche, but others had traveled to Italy or were en route.
In France, authorities are meeting Thursday to make a final decision on Paris-Nice, scheduled to start Sunday. So far, the situation in France is not as dire as in Italy, and France’s sport minister said Tuesday that Paris-Nice could be raced.
Also Thursday, Ag2r-La Mondiale joined the growing ranks of teams that are sidelining at least some of its racing calendar, saying it would not race Tirreno-Adriatico or Milan San Remo later this month.
“As team manager, I cannot risk the health and integrity of our staff when the health situation is so unstable in Italy,” said manager Vincent Lavenu. “Sporting interests should not overshadow prudence and wisdom when it comes to public health.”
Click here for all the latest updates on the growing coronavirus crisis.