Valverde, Sanchez miss Amstel Gold due to Volcano Eyjafjallajökull

Caisse d'Epargne will only start with three riders on Sunday

Alejandro Valverde and Luis Leon Sanchez will not take part in Amstel Gold Race, with the Spanish pair unable to travel to the Netherlands due to the extensive closure of European airspace. The International Cycling Union (UCI) has given Caisse d'Epargne special permission to start Sunday's race with just three riders.

Valverde had been a favourite for the event, in which he finished third in 2008.

Valverde and Sanchez were left stranded at their homes in Spain due to the widespread cancellation of flights across Europe following the eruption of Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull on Wednesday. Their withdrawal follows those of Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam) and Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) on Saturday morning, both of whom live in Spain.

HTC-Columbia's Craig Lewis (Barcelona) and Vincente Reynes (Mallorca) joined the growing list of Spanish-based riders unable to travel to the Netherlands in time to make the start of Amstel.

Several other members of Caisse d'Epargne's roster for Amstel were also unable to make the journey and the Spanish squad will start on Sunday with just three riders: Jose Vincente Garcia Acosta, Imanol Erviti and David Lopez. They will be the smallest team in the field.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) has given the team special dispensation to start with three riders, two less than the minimum number of five starters required under official regulations. UCI official Gianluca Crocetti told Cyclingnews that the temporary regulation waiver had been made due to the, "exceptional circumstances".

The final team line-ups for Amstel Gold Race will be confirmed at 5:30p.m. CET, after a team directors meeting in Maastricht, Netherlands.

It has also been reported that television helicopters may not be allowed to fly due to the restrictions on aviation currently in place. If unable to fly, there will be no live video images of the race available.

Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for updates on this breaking story.

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