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Colombian Tour de France hopefuls depart for Europe amid strict coronavirus protocols

Colombian riders on the special Avianca flight to Europew
(Image credit: Twitter)

The leading Colombian professional cyclists, including defending Tour de France champion Egan Bernal (Team Ineos), have arrived in Madrid aboard a special flight for athletes that left the El Dorado Luis Carlos Galan Sarmiento International Airport in Bogotá on Sunday.

The coronavirus pandemic halted all international flights to and from Colombia on March 23 and extended the ban through August 31 in one of the longest lockdown periods to combat the spread of COVID-19. With the Tour de France beginning on August 29 in Nice, pro riders were given special dispensation to travel on a charter flight on July 19.

Video of the riders arriving at the Bogotá airport showed multiple layers of controls, with riders using hand sanitizer outside the doors to the terminal then again washing their hands before entering the ticketing area. They also wore mask during the ten-hour flight.

Nairo Quintana, Arkéa-Samsic's Tour hopeful and former winner of the Giro d'italia and Vuelta a España wore multiple face masks at the same time and was given a clear face shield to wear on top of them.

Quintana reportedly had a scare while out training the morning before the flight when a box truck passed his group of riders into oncoming traffic and made an abrupt lane change in front of them but none of the riders crashed. He had only just resumed training after taking a blow to his knee after being knocked off by an inattentive driver in early July.

Also on board were Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana), Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott), Dani Martinez, Sergio Higuita and Rigoberto Uran (EF Pro Cycling), Winner Anacona (Arkéa-Samsic), Ivan Sosa (Team Ineos) and Sergio Henao and Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) and Diana Peñuela (TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank).

Thanks to undergoing a series of COVID-19 tests before departure, the riders and staff do not need to spend time in quarantine on arrival in Europe but can continue training for their return to racing. According to reports in Spain Bernal and his Team Ineos teammates Iván Sosa, Sebastián Henao and Brandon Rivera will head to Andorra, while others, including Quintana, will travel to their European homes in Monaco.

Among the 185 passengers on the flight were other sportspeople including tennis pros Yuliana Lizarazo and María Herazo, Olympic BMX champion Mariana Pajón Londoño and her partner Vincent Pelluard, footballers Isabella Echeverry, Yoreli Rincón, Natalia Gaitán and Leicy Santos, and judoka Yuri Alvear and coach Noriyuki Hayakawa as well as coaches, support staff and administrative staff.

The athletes were cheered through the process by President Iván Duque and Sport Minister Ernesto Lucena.

Other pro cyclists were not as fortunate as the Colombians: Kevin Rivera (Androni Giocattoli) is stuck in Costa Rica after his work permit expired, while his teammate Jefferson Cepeda was also unable to obtain a visa to travel from Ecuador.

Cyclists on the flight

Team Ineos

Egan Bernal, Iván Sosa, Sebastián Henao, Brandon Rivera.

Astana Pro Cycling

Miguel Angel López, Hernando Bohórquez, Rodrigo Contreras, Harold Tejada.

EF Pro Cycling

Rigoberto Urán, Daniel Martínez, Sergio Higuita

Deceuninck-QuickStep

Álvaro Hodeg

Bahrain McLaren

Santiago Buitrago

Movistar Team

Juan Diego Alba, Carlos Betancur

UAE Team Emirates

Sergio Henao, Camilo Ardila, Cristian Múñoz, Fernando Gaviria Juan Sebastian Molano

Arkéa-Samsic

Winner Anacona, Dáyer and Nairo Quintana

Androni Giocatolli

Miguel Florez, Jonathan Restrepo and Daniel Múñoz

Michelton Scott

Esteban Chaves

Burgos BH

Juan Felipe Osorio

Caja Rural

Johan García, Alejandro Osorio, Juan Calle.

Colombia Tierra de Atletas GW Bicicletas

Darwin Atapuma, Óscar Quiroz, Omar Mendoza, Nelson Soto, William Múñoz, Bryan Hernández, Hernán Aguirre

(Under 23) Diego Camargo, Jeison Casallas, Jesús Peña, Wilmar Molina, Wilson Peña and Didier Merchán.

Giotti Victoria

Jonathan Cañaveral

Kern Pharma

Daniel Méndez

Astana

Liliana Moreno

Movistar

Paula Patiño

According to Ciclismo Sin Limites, Andrés Camilo Ardila (UAE), Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain McLaren), Jesús David Peña and Diego Camargo (Tierra de Atletas GW Bicicletas), Jhojan García, Juan Fernando Calle (Caja Rural Seguros), are traveling separately.