Bora-Hansgrohe and Trek-Segafredo have been cleared to race Dwars door Vlaanderen after coronavirus crept into their race bubbles last week.
Both teams will line up for Wednesday’s cobblestone clash after clearing a final round of COVID-19 tests, but some big names will be missing. Mads Pedersen has to remain in isolation in Belgium, while Peter Sagan has chosen to hunker down at his home in Monaco having only recently returned from racing the Tour of Catalunya.
Both Bora-Hansgrohe and Trek-Segafredo were missing from Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem after coronavirus pierced their COVID defenses in the week prior to the race. The squads have since completed a battery of coronavirus tests and have been given the green light to race Dwars door Vlaanderen.
“In agreement with the race organization and race COVID coordinator, we have been cleared to race,” read a statement from Trek-Segafredo. “We will be racing Dwars door Vlaanderen with five riders as we did not wish to add any more people to the bubble.”
The American squad will be missing both Mads Pedersen and Alex Kirsch, who were deemed “close contacts” of the positive case detected over the weekend. Pedersen and Kirsch will isolate until April 3, and so be clear to ride this weekend’s Tour of Flanders. Edward Theuns will also sit out Dwars after returning what the team described as “an inconclusive result.”
Bora-Hansgrohe’s return to the startlist for Dwars was confirmed only Wednesday morning. Matthew Walls, who tested positive Friday ahead of the E3 Saxo Bank Classic, and two of his close contacts remain in quarantine.
“This has been a difficult situation not only for us, but also for several others who have been involved,” team manager Ralph Denk said Wednesday. “We are aware that health, whether of individual athletes or in society at large, must always come first. Nevertheless, professionals should be able to practice their profession unless there is an understandable reason to prohibit it.”
Denk had previously expressed frustration at what he had described as “unclear and arbitrary” measures that had determined that Bora-Hansgrohe’s whole Belgian unit had to isolate after Walls’ positive test, restrictions which had prevented the team from racing the E3 Classic and later Gent-Wevelgem.
Subsequent reports stated that the team boss was threatening legal action and piling pressure on health authorities to withdraw the quarantine, which would otherwise have lasted through Saturday.
“I would like to thank all the authorities for their help,” Denk said when confirming the news that Bora-Hansgrohe would race Wednesday. “The effort that everyone has shown for the good of our sport cannot be taken for granted.”
Nils Politt and Pascal Ackermann will headline for Bora-Hansgrohe at Dwaars door Vlanderen.
Sagan steers clear of Belgium for now
With tensions heightening around COVID and teams locking down their “bubbles” ahead of the high-priority Tour of Flanders on Sunday, Bora-Hansgrohe has chosen to keep Peter Sagan safe at home in Monaco. Sagan will fly into Belgium on Friday as the team looks to minimize his exposure to any potential health threats.
“Peter went home to Monaco after the Tour of Catalunya,” a team spokesman told Belgian media. “He will complete his training there in the coming days. He doesn’t necessarily have to explore the Tour of Flanders route – he didn’t do that last time either. Peter knows the roads in Flanders well enough. He will not come to Belgium until Friday.”
Sagan recently notched his first win of the season at Tour of Catalunya and has emerged as a dark horse contender for Flanders after also scoring fourth at Milano-Sanremo.