There was no immediate confirmation from team officials, but Paris-Nice race radio reported Thursday that he did not take the start.
Van Garderen confirmed the news on his Instagram page on Thursday morning.
“Obviously this is a tough decision. My young brother, Sergio Higuita I believe is about to win Paris-Nice. Yet I won’t be able to be there to celebrate with him in Nice,” van Garderen wrote. “My wife and kids had plans to travel from the US to Nice for the final, but given the current circumstances I couldn’t risk being separated from them with no options of seeing them. So I am returning to the US. I hope this situation will be resolved quickly and everyone can get back to normal life. I am hopeful this will all blow over and I can continue my season with Tour de Romandie and beyond. Until then I will continue to train and stay ready. There is a lot of racing left in the season. But health, safety, and the family comes first.”
In a national address Wednesday night, President Donald Trump announced a series of steps to confront the coronavirus, including a 30-day ban of direct flights between Europe and the United States. The decree does not apply to American citizens traveling from Europe, but according to L’Equipe, the American did not want to risk being trapped in Europe or being placed in a medical quarantine, and decided to return home to his family as soon as possible.
Van Garderen’s exit comes as teammate Sergio Higuita is riding strong in the GC, sitting fifth overall going into Thursday’s stage at 1:06 behind race leader Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe).
Overnight, officials in Hungary declared a national state of emergency, and restricted all travel from Italy and a host of other affected countries. Officials did not specify a time frame for the decree, but it could present an important hurdle for the Giro d’Italia, set to start May 9 in Budapest.
Last week, RCS Sport officials were forced to cancel all of their spring races in light of Italy’s national lockdown that continues into early April. RCS Sport officials are hoping to reschedule such races as Strade Bianche and Milano-Sanremo, but have yet to finalize any dates.
More pressing is the fate of the 2020 season’s first grand tour. The 103rd edition of the Giro is slated to start May 9 in Budapest, with three stages in Hungary before a transfer to Sicily. RCS Sport is still hoping to hold the race, but the widening health crisis could mean the Giro’s fate is in the hands of international health authorities.
It’s unclear if the Giro could alter its starting point at such a late notice. The Giro is scheduled to transfer to Sicily from Hungary, so it could be plausible to move the race start to the Italian island if restrictions remain in place. There was no official comment from Giro officials Thursday.