Mitchelton-Scott announced Friday that they have launched a virtual ride series amid the series of race cancellations and precautions surrounding the coronavirus outbreak.
The 'BikeExchange – Where the World Rides Series' will open with a 'gravel' ride joined by world champion Annemiek van Vleuten and Tour de France stage winners Simon Yates and Daryl Impey for the ride at 11am CET this Sunday, 8 March on Zwift.
"Off the back of its recent decision to withdraw from all racing as a result of COVID-19 concerns, Mitchelton-Scott today launched the 'BikeExchange - Where the World Rides Series', which will see the team and its fans ride, race and interact via the Zwift platform," read a team press statement.
Mitchelton-Scott announced Wednesday that it had withdrawn both its men’s and women’s teams from all racing with immediate effect until at least March 22. The decision was made in light of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak in Europe.
Later that day, however, a decree announced by the Italian government had banned all sporting events that could not be held behind closed doors as part of its efforts to protect the wider public health. On Thursday, RCS Sport then made the decision to cancel Strade Bianche, and on Friday, announced that it would postpone Tirreno-Adriatico, and Milan-San Remo.
The women’s team had also pulled out of Strade Bianche (March 7), which is now cancelled, along with Ronde van Drenthe (March 15), Danilith Nokere Koerse (March 18) and the Trofeo Binda (March 22). The organisers of Trofeo Alfredo Binda have requested a new date of June 2.
Van Vleuten, who won Strade Bianche last year, said she supported Mitchelton-Scott's decision to pull the team from the March events.
"No Strade Bianche for our team and for now no races till after 22nd of March. Read statement for more info [below in team press statement]," Van Vleuten posted on Twitter.
"Very sad because I was very much looking forward to race. Difficult decision to make but thanks Mitchelton-Scott for putting everyones health above all."
The newly launched 'BikeExchange – Where the World Rides Series' is aimed at keeping riders and team staff stimulated during the non-racing period, as well as providing a unique opportunity for cycling fans to ride and interact with their favourite stars, according to the team press release.
The Series will launch with a gravel ride, paying homage to the cancelled Strade Bianche races, this weekend.
The full schedule of the rides will be announced at a later date, but will include the following concepts - Mixed team races; Race your heros; See how long you can hold off our Michelton-Scott boys and girls in this unique race format; Fan race: where fans can enter to become teammates of one of their favourite riders, who will represent them as a captain ‘on the road’; Training sessions – designed and led by specialist team coaches; and a live-broadcasted race.