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Teams confirm Colombian ‘flight of stars’ still on

Bernal and Quintana among top pros set to fly back to Europe this week despite new restrictions.

Team sources are telling VeloNews that a planned “flight of the stars” later this week that includes Tour de France champion Egan Bernal and Nairo Quintana will depart as scheduled despite new restrictions in Colombia.

Officials from four teams with Colombian riders confirmed Monday that the flight, scheduled to leave July 19 from Bogotá, will depart for Madrid as scheduled.

Last week, Colombian officials introduced a new string of measures to beat back an uptick of cases of the coronavirus in the South American country, including additional lockdowns in Bogotá. Despite worsening conditions on the ground there, a flight is still scheduled to leave which will also include other Colombian sports figures.

There has been some speculation that the new restrictions could catch many of the top Colombian cyclists in a sort of COVID-19 no-man’s land, but authorities say that the flight will travel as planned. Though most tourist travel between Colombia and Europe is banned under current restrictions, Colombian sports authorities organized a special charter to make sure that its top stars can return to competition in a timely and safe manner.

All members of the flight crew and passengers will undergo a battery of health controls as part of the agreement with European authorities before being allowed to fly, sources told VeloNews.

Bernal, Quintana, and a fleet of other Colombian stars returned home at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in Europe. Unlike some of their colleagues, who were in strict lockdowns in parts of Europe, riders in Colombia have been allowed to train outdoors without significant restrictions. Bernal, for one, has been posted a series of long-distance rides on his social media that include nearly 300km in seven hours of training.

The Colombians will return to Europe and rejoin their respective teams. The peloton is bracing for a return to racing later this month at the Vuelta a Burgos just as new flareups in Spain serve as a reminder of how the sport will be trying to compete in the midst of a world pandemic.

As reported last week on VeloNews, Giro d’Italia champion Richard Carapaz and compatriot and Team Ineos teammate Jhonatan Narváez will fly directly from Quito, Ecuador, to Madrid on July 15.