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Colombian riders to travel to Europe on charter flight on Sunday

Egan Bernal training in Colombia
Egan Bernal training in Colombia (Image credit: Getty Images)

Colombian professional riders including Egan Bernal and Nairo Quintana will travel to Europe on Sunday aboard a specially chartered flight for around 150 high performance athletes.

All commercial flights to and from Colombia are barred until at least September as part of travel restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the country, but the government has allowed international athletes – including professional cyclists – to travel to Europe aboard a charter flight from Bogota to Madrid.

The Avianca flight, dubbed ‘Flight of Sport – Colombian Pride’ by the Colombian government, will depart from Bogota airport at 5pm on Sunday, July 19. Passengers are required to undergo and pass a PCR coronavirus test before travelling and they will not have to undergo a 14-day quarantine on arrival in Madrid.

"Thanks to teamwork led by the national government […] our athletes will be able to arrive in Europe to fulfil their competitive schedules, something fundamental in their development, which was affected in the first half of the year by the COVID-19 pandemic," Colombian Minister for Sport Ernesto Lucena Barrero said in a statement on Tuesday evening.

AS Colombia reports that athletes are requested to arrive at Bogota airport three hours before departure.

"The athletes must arrive on time, with face masks. On the flight, they must keep wearing the masks and change them every four hours," said Juan Diego Zapata of the Avianca airline. "On the flight, food and entertainment are limited, so we ask athletes to bring their own devices. As for food, it will be very basic and sealed.

"It is important to point out that for each stage of the flight, we are following all the health measures required by the World Health Organization and the governments, as well as the recommendations of IATA (the International Air Transport Association)."

Colombia’s professional cyclists will be joined aboard the flight by athletes from a number of other disciplines, including football, volleyball, fencing and judo.

2019 Tour de France winner Egan Bernal (Ineos) is set to resume his season at La Route d'Occitanie (August 1-4) and he will also line out at the Tour de l’Ain and Critérium du Dauphiné before defending his title at La Grande Boucle, which gets underway in Nice on August 29. 

Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic), who returned to training this week after a training crash, is set to ride the Tour de l’Ain and the Dauphiné in preparation for the Tour.

Richard Carapaz (Ineos) was initially reported to be investigating the feasibility of travelling to Europe aboard the Colombian charter flight but the 2019 Giro d'Italia winner and his fellow Ecuadorian riders are instead returning to Europe directly from their own country. Carapaz was due to fly from Quito to Madrid on Wednesday.

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