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Team Ineos withdraw from racing until Volta a Catalunya

INEOS team rider Chris Froome of England R rides during the second stage of the UAE Cycling Tour from Hatta to Hatta Dam on February 24 2020 Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE AFP Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACEAFP via Getty Images
(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Team Ineos have decided to temporarily withdraw from all racing until the Volta a Catalunya, which starts on March 23. The British squad made the decision in the wake of the death of directeur sportif Nicolas Portal on Tuesday night, adding that the ongoing coronavirus situation was also a factor.

In a press release, the team stated that they had notified the UCI of their decision. Along with Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo, which look set to be cancelled according to an Italian government decree, the team will skip Paris-Nice, Nokere Koerse and the Bredene Koksijde Classic.

"We have taken this decision given the unique set of circumstances we are facing," said Ineos team principal Dave Brailsford. "This is a uniquely sad moment for everyone at the Team. We have lost someone we all loved very much and are all grieving for Nico.

"It is right for the Team given what has happened, but I also believe it is in the best interests of both cycling and the wider public," he continued, referring to the coronavirus outbreak. 

The team's statement went on to outline a list of reasons for the decision, which include the need to take care of team members after Portal's passing and the duty of care to riders, staff and the wider public as coronavirus spreads across Europe.

"We are doing this:

"Wanting first and foremost to look after our team members, their family and friends, who are all grieving for a much loved teammate and whose funeral will be taking place in the coming days.

"Recognising also our duty of healthcare to riders and staff in what is a very fast moving and challenging situation with coronavirus. We have taken the best medical advice and recognise that these are exceptional times for everyone - beyond just cycling.

"Appreciating our wider responsibilities to local communities through which we would travel and the current burden on the public health authorities within them who are dealing with a challenging and unprecedented situation.

"Acknowledging the unique mobile nature of cycling with its travelling peloton of riders and staff across towns and regions."

Brailsford said that the team are currently grieving for Portal, who suffered a heart attack at his home in Andorra, adding that they are thankful for all the messages of condolence received in the wake of the Frenchman's death.

"I would like to thank everyone for their messages following the tragic news yesterday. They have really meant a lot to us all as we try to come to terms with this terrible news.

"Nico meant the world to us as a Team and it is genuinely touching to know how much he also meant to everyone else across the sport."

Brailsford went on to note that the move is also a measure of avoidance of coronavirus, with the team seeking to prevent a repeat of the ongoing situation at the UAE Tour, where four teams remain in quarantine after an outbreak of coronavirus at the abridged race.

"Cycling is a uniquely mobile sport. We have a duty of care both to our riders and staff but also to the people living in the areas where we race. We do not want to be in a position where our riders become potentially infected or quarantined on race as has already happened," Brailsford said.

"Equally we are acutely aware that these are difficult times for all local health services, and we do not want to put any additional pressure or burden whatsoever upon them when all their focus should rightly be on their own local population. Recent events at the UAE Tour have illustrated some of these challenges for cycling as a sport. 

"This pause will give us the time to grieve for Nico in private, to support each other at what is a very sad moment and to treasure the memory of a great and much-loved teammate and friend. We hope everyone will understand why this is so important to us."