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FDJ and Cofidis released from UAE Tour's coronavirus quarantine

The Cofidis riders at the UAE Tour (Image credit: Mathilde L’Azou)

French teams Groupama-FDJ and Cofidis have been released from quarantine at the UAE Tour, almost a week earlier than planned, with riders and staff allowed to travel home on Sunday. 

The Gazprom-RusVelo and UAE Team Emirates squads both remain on lockdown after a number of suspected coronavirus cases were uncovered during the UAE Tour.

Groupama-FDJ, Cofidis, Gazprom-RusVelo, and UAE Team Emirates were scheduled to remain in quarantine until March 14 but overnight the French squads were told that they could leave immediately after no positive tests were returned from their ranks.

The teams had been tested several times since the first suspected outbreak and were confined to the fourth floor of the teams’ hotel, which was suspected to be the epicenter of the outbreak.

Riders and staff have already left the confines of their hotel, with the majority on flights back to mainland Europe. Several riders are to due land at European airports in the next few hours.

The nightmarish situation began on the night of February 27 as the Abu Dhabi hotels housing the riders, staff, and media on the race were locked down under suspicion of two cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus. 

Riders were tested overnight and the vast majority were permitted to leave on Sunday March 1. However, more positive tests would come to light, with the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention reporting on March 3 that two Russians, two Italians, one German and one Colombian had caught the virus.

The cases were reportedly among the UAE Team Emirates and Gazprom-RusVelo squads, but since Cofidis and Groupama-FDJ were staying on the same floor of the hotel, they were also instructed to be quarantined until March 14. 

Throughout the ordeal, 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".

Groupama-FDJ manager Marc Madiot, meanwhile, had said he was in contact with the French government pushing for the release of his riders. 

Things seemed to settle down when they were informed of the March 14 quarantine, which gave them a fixed end date, and when the riders were given their bikes and home trainers to continue to exercise and train. 

Groupama-FDJ riders had signed up to a virtual race on Zwift on Sunday, but will now be sitting on a plane instead, and no doubt delighted about it.