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Mathieu Van der Poel heads home for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Dutch champion Mathieu van der Poel was cleared to return to the Netherlands from the UAE to prepare for this weekend's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, according to Wielerflits.nl

The Alpecin-Fenix team left the UAE Tour after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

Coronavirus restrictions meant that Jonas Rickaert and Gianni Vermeersch, who came in 'close contact' with the infected staff member, must remain in quarantine in the UAE while Van der Poel, Roy Jans, Jasper Philipsen, Kristian Sbaragli and Louis Vervaeke along with three staff members were able to depart for Amsterdam after testing negative twice.

Van der Poel won the opening stage and would have worn the race leader's jersey on Monday were it not for the coronavirus case. He should be able to start Omloop Het Nieuwsblad as long as he can submit a negative PCR or rapid test 24 hours before the start of Saturday's race.

Organiser Flanders Classic's CEO Tomas Van Den Spiegel stated on Twitter, "Although we are not a party in the discussion it is our belief that, if he is compliant with both UCI and our federations protocol, [Van der Poel] will be able to take a start."

Van der Poel's plans for the 2020 road season were also disrupted by the pandemic when the entire calendar came to a halt and the Olympic Games were postponed to this year. 

Last July, the team planned to race the Sibiu Tour in Romania but abandoned those plans as cases surged in that country. He made the most of the late, condensed road season, winning the Dutch title, a stage in Tirreno-Adriatico and the BinckBank Tour before out-sprinting Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) to claim the Tour of Flanders.