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Cofidis and Groupama-FDJ to remain in UAE coronavirus quarantine until March 14

Cofidis riders Attilio Viviani and Nathan Haas are among those to remain in quarantine in the UAE (Image credit: Mathilde L’Azou)

Members of the Cofidis and Groupama-FDJ teams present at the UAE Tour have learned that they will remain in quarantine until March 14, the teams have announced. 

Both teams' seven-man rosters, plus numerous staff members, have been isolated in an Abu Dhabi hotel since the race was drawn to a premature close on February 27 after two cases of the coronavirus Covid-19 were discovered among the race entourage.

In a statement released on the Cofidis website, team President Thierry Vittu said that it was a relief to have some certainty about the future. Shortly afterwards, Groupama-FDJ announced that UCI President David Lappartient informed the team of their extended quarantine.

The squads, along with Gazprom-RusVelo and UAE Team Emirates – who remained in the country as a precaution – have been stuck in limbo for much of the past week as tests and retests for the virus took place.

"Hello everyone. We just learned that we are officially quarantined until March 14," the statement from Vittu reads. "Admittedly, the deadline is distant (though it is only 10 days) but, in a way, it is kind of a relief.

"Indeed, as I have had the opportunity to say and write, what was difficult to live with until now was the absence of a deadline and the ongoing wait for a prompt outcome, which never came. It was a source of anxiety and stress.

"Now we know what to expect and, even if the confinement continues, everyone will succeed in finding occupations, distractions, activities."

Groupama-FDJ's statement confirmed that all of the team's riders and staff members had tested negative for Covid-19, but that several new cases in the hotel – reported on Tuesday night – meant that an extended stay in isolation was necessary.

"All of our riders and staff in the UAE have been tested negative for Covid-19," read the statement. "Still, several positive results – not involving our team – have been reported inside our hotel.

"As a consequence, we got informed by the President of the UCI, Mr David Lappartient, that our 12 employees are required to observe a quarantine period until 14 March 2020.

"We will not comment [on] this decision that goes beyond the sport itself. We express our support to all the people facing this tough situation."

Over the past several days, a number of Cofidis members have spoken out about the situation, with the lack of information on offer and slow progress prompting directeur sportif Roberto Damiani to threaten a hunger strike in defence of his team.

Team photographer Mathilde L'Azou told Cyclingnews that morale in the team was low, while rider Nathan Haas spoke of how the situation is testing people's patience and "starting to cause pandemonium".

For his part, Vittu tried to put a positive spin on the news of further isolation on the fourth floor of the Crowne Royal Plaza Abu Dhabi Yas Island, calling the experience a collective adventure.

"We will remain united with each other, aware that we are living a collective adventure, that we would have liked not to live, but which will teach us about ourselves and about others," he said.

"We already tell ourselves that in a few months, we will laugh between us. Proof that we are already planning! Let us remain optimistic and positive and I thank you for all your messages of support which make our hearts warm."

The news of the teams' extended quarantine follows Tuesday night's revelation that six new cases of Covid-19 have been discovered at the race. The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention reported that two Russians, two Italians, one German and one Colombian had caught the virus.

The four teams remain in the UAE, with riders affected including Jesùs Herrada, David Gaudu, Arnaud Démare, race runner-up Tadej Pogačar, and Fernando Gaviria. The remainder of the the teams, race organisation and journalists covering the race were allowed to leave the country on Sunday, having all tested negative for coronavirus.