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Officials confirmed Wednesday that one rider within the team structure returned a positive test for the coronavirus. The Dutch team decided to put that individual and other persons they came into contact with into isolation and sent everyone else home.
“The doomsday scenario has come true,” said performance manager Mathieu Heijboer in a team statement. “This is a scenario that we have taken into account, of course. We had already decided how to act in such a situation, and we had taken all kinds of measures. Breaking up is the best option to prevent further spread. It is a logistical job to get done.”
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The camp closure due to the COVID case comes as dozens of WorldTour teams are converging along Spain’s Costa Blanca for annual pre-season camps.
Squads typically post up in such resort towns as Calpe, Altea, and Denia for several weeks to hone form, build out new equipment, pose for photos, introduce new staffers and riders, and often meet the media. Several teams decided to cancel media opportunities this week, however, due to rising infection rates across Spain and Europe.
Jumbo-Visma officials said everyone inside the team’s “bubble” were tested daily, and a positive diagnosis Wednesday morning required everyone to pack up only one day after the team camp started.
Officials said some riders will continue to train individually, in the area, but that the team’s group activities will immediately cease.
“The health of our riders and our staff is our main concern. That’s why we are breaking down our training camp,” said sport director Merijn Zeeman. “It has been confirmed once again that it is extremely challenging to organize these kinds of activities in these times. We will guarantee the sporting part as well as possible so that the riders can continue their preparation for the season within the possibilities. It’s a pity, but it is the only right choice.”
COVID-19 reaches into the 2022 season
It appears the team’s decision to shut down its camp is the first by a major team impacted by a raging spike of coronavirus infections via the omicron variant that is sweeping across Europe this month.
One health expert quoted widely Tuesday said it’s likely that up to one-half of the entire European population could be infected within a month as omicron continues to drive infections to unprecedented levels.
Despite optimism that a massive vaccination effort could lead to an easing of restrictions across Europe, COVID-19 continues to reach into the 2022 racing season. Several races elsewhere in the southern hemisphere have already been canceled, including Australian races and the Vuelta a San Juan in Argentina.
With races set to begin in late January in Spain and in early February in France, organizers will be watching closely the infection rates as well as coordinating with health authorities.
Teams are bracing for more early season race cancelations, team sources told VeloNews.
The setback will be yet another distraction for the peloton as the sport enters its third calendar year under the COVID-19 reality.