Team INEOS have today taken the decision to withdraw temporarily from all racing until the Volta a Catalunya on March 23. They have notified the UCI that they will not be competing in any races during this period.
In a statement released this evening, they said: “We have taken this decision given the unique set of circumstances we are facing following yesterday’s tragic news about Nico Portal. And clearly we recognise there is also a very uncertain situation with Coronavirus more widely.”
The team will not be racing the following races:
– Strade Bianche
– Milan-San Remo
– Nokere Koerse
– Bredene Koksijde Classic
The team said that they are doing this for the following reasons:
– Wanting first and foremost to look after our team members, their family and friends, who are all grieving for a much loved teammate and whose funeral will be taking place in the coming days.
– Recognising also our duty of healthcare to riders and staff in what is a very fast moving and challenging situation with Coronavirus. We have taken the best medical advice and recognise that these are exceptional times for everyone – beyond just cycling.
– Appreciating our wider responsibilities to local communities through which we would travel and the current burden on the public health authorities within them who are dealing with a challenging and unprecedented situation.
– Acknowledging the unique mobile nature of cycling with its travelling peloton of riders and staff across towns and regions.
Dave Brailsford said: “This is a uniquely sad moment for everyone at the Team. We have lost someone we all loved very much and are all grieving for Nico. I would like to thank everyone for their messages following the tragic news yesterday. They have really meant a lot to us all as we try to come to terms with this terrible news. Nico meant the world to us as a Team and it is genuinely touching to know how much he also meant to everyone else across the sport.
“We are taking this decision to put a temporary pause on racing today because of this unique set of circumstances we are facing. It is right for the Team given what has happened but I also believe it is in the best interests of both cycling and the wider public.
“Cycling is a uniquely mobile sport. We have a duty of care both to our riders and staff but also to the people living in the areas where we race. We do not want to be in a position where our riders become potentially infected or quarantined on race as has already happened. Equally we are acutely aware that these are difficult times for all local health services and we do not want to put any additional pressure or burden whatsoever upon them when all their focus should rightly be on their own local population. Recent events at the UAE Tour have illustrated some of these challenges for cycling as a sport.
“This pause will give us the time to grieve for Nico in private, to support each other at what is a very sad moment and to treasure the memory of a great and much loved teammate and friend. We hope everyone will understand why this is so important to us.”