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Coronavirus: Canadian Leah Kirchmann chooses to stay in the Netherlands

Leah Kirchmann
Leah Kirchmann (Image credit: Getty Images)

Canadian Leah Kirchmann has told Cyclingnews that she is choosing to stay in the Netherlands for the time being, and has opted to take heed of recommendations to restrict travel to help stop the spreading of the coronavirus. She is currently residing at the Sunweb team's centre in Sittard but may plan on travel back to Canada in the coming weeks.

"I would like to clarify that I am not stuck in the Netherlands, I am choosing to be here for the time being," Kirchmann told Cyclingnews

"The team is not limiting our movements and gave us all the choice whether to travel home. They are taking all the necessary precautions to protect the health of riders and staff. I am at the team's 'Keep-Challenging' centre in Sittard with a small group of riders, including two other Canadians." 

Kirchmann is a native of Winnipeg but currently lives outside of Toronto. She is in her fourth season with Sunweb, formerly called Team Liv-Plantur, and typically spends much of the season overseas. 

She began her season in Australia at the Santos Women's Tour Down Under, Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and Race Torquay in January and February. She later travelled to Europe to begin the spring classics season. 

Due to public health concerns surrounding the spreading of the corononavirus, or COVID-19, many of the top-level one-day races from March through June were either cancelled or postponed. These events include events across China, Italy, Belgium and Netherlands: Tour of Chongming Island, Strade Bianche, Bevrijdingsronde van Drenthe, Trofeo Alfredo Binda, Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne, Gent-Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders, the Ardennes Classics and the Women's Tour.

In addition, the Canadian Olympic Committee announced Sunday that it will not send athletes to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games amid the health risks concerning the coronavirus.

"I am trying to act as responsibly as possible, limiting the number of people I have contact with, and only going out for training or for grocery shopping. We are facing a huge public health challenge and need to all work together to overcome it," Kirchmann said.

"I do miss my boyfriend, friends and family, but also see some responsibility in not going to see them at this very moment. I am grateful that technology allows for easy communication."

Kirchmann said the coronavirus health concerns should be everyone's top priority and she has decided that, for now, staying in one place and limiting travel is the safest option.

"I am choosing to stay [in Sittard] for the time being for several reasons. We have a very good set up with the team when over in Europe as we are hired as proper employees, so have work visas and Dutch health insurance," she said.

"We also live in our own apartments, which make social distancing easy in the current circumstances. 

"There are also strong recommendations that everyone in the world should limit travel at the moment. If I were to travel, then it would pose a risk to myself and my community in Canada if I were to come into contact with the virus."

Neither Canada nor the Netherlands are in complete lockdown at this time. In Canada, provinces have declared a state of emergency with some restricting social gatherings to five people. 

Public and private schools and daycares are closed, as are businesses such as gyms and health centres, bars and cafes and restaurants [with the exception of those offering drive-thru, takeout and delivery], cinemas, visitor and cultural attractions, along with some shops, and banks under modified hours. 

In addition, Canadian-US borders are closed to all non-essential travel. The coronavirus outbreak has prompted both border restrictions and flight cancellations, however, and many travellers are struggling to return to Canada.

"I may choose to travel back in the coming weeks, but would take all the necessary precautions and enter into isolation for 14 days once back home," Kirchmann said. 

"Travel options are becoming more limited with flight cancellations and borders closures, but I am confident there will still be possible ways to travel home."

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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in bike racing from the grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.