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Volta a Portugal on hold as host towns back out

UCI 2.1 race postponed with no new dates yet confirmed as coronavirus concerns hit local authorities.

The Volta a Portugal, originally scheduled to take place July 29 – August 9, will likely be postponed without a rescheduling date as numerous towns hosting stages are pulling out, reports RTP Desporto. And while the race could still take place in 2020, there are limited options in the power-packed calendar.

If confirmed, the cancelation will be another blow to cycling in Portugal as the Vuelta a España already announced that it was canceling the two stages scheduled there for this fall’s race as a result of the global health crisis. The loss of confidence from the Portuguese authorities could also mark a dark omen for the wider cycling calendar.

The 2.1-ranked Volta a Portugal was originally scheduled to take place under strict social-distancing measures as a result of the coronavirus crisis. However, last Sunday the municipality of Viana do Castelo announced the ban on the passage of the race because it considered that “it cannot give contradictory signals” to society “in the face of the ignorance of the evolution” of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This week, Guarda, another potential stage host, put their final decision on hold saying “we are not canceling our support just yet, but we are closely monitoring the situation.”

Meanwhile, it later became known that Viseu withdrew its support. “I told the Volta organization that I didn’t feel comfortable to receive it in the usual way. We suggest a postponement,” justified Almeida Henriques, the city’s mayor.

Only last Friday, an official source from the Directorate-General for Health (DGS) revealed that the Tour of Portugal would take place “according to the plan presented” by the Portuguese Cycling Federation (FPC).

“The athletes will be monitored by the medical staff of the team in order to guarantee the early detection of any suggestive symptom of COVID-19,” explained the DGS. “If there is suspected COVID-19, the procedures established in Portugal will be applied and they will not be able to participate in the race.”

But despite all efforts by the Portuguese federation to provide assurances for a healthy race, numerous communities along the race route are yet to be convinced. And without the towns, there is no race.

The eventual postponement or cancelation of the Tour of Portugal could be a troubling sign for other race organizers still hoping to hold their event in the new calendar proposed by the UCI as it tries to restart the season in the midst of the global health crisis. The Tour of Burgos in Spain, Strade Bianche in Italy, the Route d’Occitanie in France — all early races on the new calendar — could suffer similar fates.

While the UCI has unveiled a swathe of health and safety measures to be implemented at races, the new cycling calendar still depends on a clear decline in COVID-19.