Colombian travel restrictions pose Tour threat for Bernal, Quintana, Urán

Extension of state of emergency in Colombia prohibits international flights through August 31 - two days after the start of the Tour de France.

Will Egan Bernal win his second Tour de France this year? Well, he’s going to have to negotiate his way past new government restrictions on travel out of Colombia first.

Colombian president Iván Duque announced Thursday that the country’s borders would remain closed through August 31, with a stop on all flights leaving the country. This extension of the nation’s state of emergency as it battles the coronavirus crisis poses a huge hurdle for riders traveling to the Tour, starting in Nice August 29.

“We are making this decision given the health emergency,” said Angela María Orozco, Minister of Transport. “We do not expect to reopen airspace before August 31, with the result that international air traffic will restart. We will continue to focus on protecting our citizens.”

Yellow jersey contenders Egan Bernal (Ineos), Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) and Rigoberto Urán (EF Pro Cycling), along with top sprinter Fernando Gaviria (UAE-Team Emirates) are among the dozens of Colombian riders that are on their team’s Tour de France start sheets. With WorldTour squads looking to start group training camps and trips to altitude from July and the season kicking into gear again August 1, the issue will also extend to the swathes of Colombian pros not likely to start the Tour as well.

Earlier this month, Colombian riders received special permission to train on open roads in their home country while the rest of the nation remained in lockdown. With the likes of Bernal, Urán and Quintana elevated to superstar status in Colombia, it is likely that the country’s elite riders will be asking for similar flexibility regarding the travel ban, though no decisions have been made yet.