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Bora-Hansgrohe prevented from starting Gent-Wevelgem due to COVID-19 guidelines

SAINT SIFFRET FRANCE FEBRUARY 06 Nils Politt of German and Team Bora Hansgrohe during the 51st toile de Bessges Tour du Gard 2021 Stage 4 a 1516km stage from Rousson to Saint Siffret 165m EDB2020 on February 06 2021 in Saint Siffret France Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images
The Bora-Hansgrohe team at Etoile de Bessèges (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Bora-Hansgrohe have been prevented from starting Gent-Wevelgem by the race organisation in line with the coronavirus restrictions in place in Belgium.

The German squad had previously missed Friday’s E3 Saxo Bank Classic after Matt Walls tested positive for COVID-19. Bora-Hansgrohe had signalled their intention to start Gent-Wevelgem after the team’s remaining riders and staff returned negative PCR tests, but they were informed on Sunday morning that they would not be allowed to take part.

"There’s the fact that 17 people from Bora have been marked as high-risk contacts," said Flanders Classics CEO Thomas Van Den Spiegel. 

"Once they’re quarantined, there’s not much we can do. Yesterday we informed ourselves in detail about their situation. This morning there was no other option for us than to inform them that they were not allowed to take the start."

In a press release, Bora-Hansgrohe stated that a "seven-day quarantine on two-thirds of the team" had been imposed by the race doctor of the E3 Saxo Bank Classic. Team manager Ralph Denk said he and the team did not understand the decision.

"I am very disappointed and angry," Denk said. "A GP from the region can block an entire team in one of the largest one-day races in the world. We had a positive Corona case with Walls and have the roommate and a physio as category 1 contact persons. That they have to be isolated and quarantined is absolutely clear.

"However, we of course have other riders and staff on site, so a part of them were also ordered to be in quarantine, but only some of them. Who was selected and the reasons are completely unclear and it seems rather arbitrary. Honestly, I can't understand why other teams are allowed to race after similar cases. We tried everything last night, but the doctor didn't even answer us anymore. It would be nice to at least understand how he has justified his decisions.

"We are testing every day at the moment and all the tests so far have been negative, without exception. The part of the team that has been quarantined will be quarantined until 1 April. This also means that we cannot start at Dwars Door Vlaanderen."

Van Den Spiegel later took to Twitter to state that the decision was out of the hands of the race organiser, saying, "we do not have the authority to overrule an ongoing quarantine. It is also not up to an organiser like ourselves to judge whether the quarantine is fair or not."

The Trek-Segafredo team of defending champion Mads Pedersen were also absent from the start of Gent-Wevelgem after they announced their withdrawal on Saturday evening following two confirmed cases of COVID-19.

One Trek-Segafredo team member had tested positive on Friday, before another tested positive after close contacts within the team had been put into isolation.

“The Team has decided to withdraw from Gent-Wevelgem whilst we do further testing before we can safely return to competition," read a statement from Trek-Segafredo.