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Jumbo-Visma reinstate Hofstede after COVID-19 vaccine refusal

Lennard Hofstede (Jumbo-Visma)
Lennard Hofstede (Jumbo-Visma) (Image credit: Getty Images)

The Jumbo-Visma team has decided to allow Dutch rider Lennard Hofstede to begin his season after excluding him from training camps and competitions because he has refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Hofstede, 27, last raced with the team in October, 2021, closing out his season in Croatia after completing the Vuelta a España. After the omicron variant began creating huge spikes in cases, Hofstede was not invited to join the team at its December camp in Girona or its January camp in Alicante.

According to Wielerflits, the team did not want to take risks with an unvaccinated rider but manager Merijn Zeeman said the situation with the pandemic has changed since the start of the year.

“We had regulations in different countries and UCI rules," Zeeman said. "We didn't want to take any risk at the time. With a view to vaccinations, we had a straightforward medical policy. That was in the period before omicron. We have always had good contact with Lennard and his management and there has always been understanding from both sides. We have indicated that we will meet again as soon as the situation has improved. That is now the case.”

The UCI updated its COVID-19 protocols for the 2022 season in January, and did not require vaccinations per se, but required either immunization with one of the approved shots or negative PCR tests in the 48 hours before a one-day or stage race shorter than seven days, and required negative tests for longer stage races regardless of vaccine status. Vaccinations were required for entry to some countries such as France, however.

Even with the requirements, numerous COVID-19 positives have hit the pro peloton, with Jumbo-Visma disbanding its January camp early and then forced to withdraw from the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, along with Team DSM and BikeExchange-Jayco after members of the teams tested positive for COVID-19.

Hofstede is due to start the Classic Brugge-De Panne on March 23 but could be drafted earlier because of "we are dealing with a number of injuries and corona infections", Zeeman said. "You now see that there are quite a few positive cases after a stage race. We were confronted with it in and after Valencia and the Algarve. Fortunately, we made it through the UAE Tour and the opening weekend in Flanders well.

"In contrast to previous years, you can see that the bubble in the peloton no longer works. There are now many more infections during a bike race.”

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