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European Union confirms ban on US travelers, making return to racing tricky

Tejay van Garderen on the flight from Sicily at the 2017 Giro d'Italia with Rohan Dennis
Tejay van Garderen (left) on the flight from Sicily at the 2017 Giro d'Italia (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The Council of the European Union published its recommendations for lifting the temporary restriction on non-essential travel into its member states on Tuesday, allowing residents from 15 countries to enter the EU member states but leaving out those from the United States.

The move could affect 29 US men between the WorldTeams and ProTeams and 29 US women on either WorldTeams or Continental teams - most of whom returned stateside after the COVID-19 pandemic halted all sporting events.

The EU banned international travelers to stop the flow of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which has caused tens of thousands of deaths across Europe. Countries are expected to begin reopening their borders to non-essential travelers on July 1 - but only those who live in areas where the average number of COVID-19 cases for the past 14 days are at or below the 14-day average of Europe.

As of June 30, the level of reported COVID-19 cases in the US is almost an order of magnitude greater than the EU average and has resurged to an exponential rise, while most European countries have largely curbed the spread of the virus.

There are numerous other countries that did not make the cut, including Colombia, Ecuador, South Africa, Russia and Brazil. Defending Tour de France champion Egan Bernal (Team Ineos) is expected to fly to Europe on a charter flight with his compatriots on July 19.

Average coronavirus cases per million residents as of June 30

The 7-day average confirmed cases per million residents in the USA and Colombia vs Europe, Canada and Australia (Image credit: OurWorldinData.org)

The various EU countries are free to make their own border decisions and could allow additional exceptions to the council's recommendations, such as for those who had visas or temporary residences, as was already the case for Italy and Spain. The borders never closed to the UK, which is still considered part of the EU until Brexit ends.

Several US riders have managed to make their way to Europe in recent weeks in spite of the existing travel ban. Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar) returned to Nice in early June while Larry Warbasse (AG2R La Mondiale) made the same trip last week.

EF Pro Cycling's Tejay van Garderen flew to Spain this week, posting a short 33km ride from Girona on Strava. Van Garderen dropped out of Paris-Nice and flew home when President Donald Trump suddenly announced a ban on European travelers in early March.

A Trek-Segafredo spokesperson said only that the team will be trying everything to get their riders back to Europe.

Riders hoping to travel to Europe could get in under an exception to the travel ban: one that relates to 'highly qualified workers' but only "if their employment is necessary from an economic perspective and the work cannot be postponed or performed abroad".

The recommendations may create headaches for the men and women hoping to get back overseas for when racing recommences in late July. The first major men's race is the Sibiu Cycling Tour (July 23-26) in Romania, while women's racing resumes with the 1.1-ranked Emakumeen Nafarroako Klasikoa on July 23. The first Women's WorldTour race, Strade Bianche, coincides with the restart of the men's WorldTour.

The EU along with Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein will open their borders to travelers who reside in a number of countries including Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, as well as Andorra, San Marino, and Monaco. China's inclusion is "subject to confirmation of reciprocity".

The EU council recommends the situation be reviewed every two weeks, so while Australia made the list to be allowed in, a recent spike of cases in that country could jeopardize the riders' entry into Europe if not brought back under control.

While the restrictions for entering the United States apply to anyone who has been in Europe for the past 14 days but excepts US citizens, the EU recommendations do not allow residents of the US to travel to Europe, regardless of their nationality.