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Van der Poel and Alpecin-Fenix exit UAE Tour due to coronavirus case

Mathieu van der Poel at the UAE Tour (Image credit: Getty Images)

Mathieu van der Poel and his Alpecin-Fenix team will not take the start of stage 2 of the UAE Tour as a staff member has returned a positive test for COVID-19. 

The news was broken by Dutch website WielerFlits and confirmed shortly afterwards by Alpecin-Fenix.

"We can confirm that we have withdrawn from the race. More information will be given soon. The wellbeing of everyone involved is our main concern," read a statement from Alpecin-Fenix on Twitter.

Van der Poel was the overnight leader after winning Sunday’s wind-blasted opening stage. David Dekker (Jumbo-Visma) inherits the race lead for Monday’s stage 2, a 13km time trial at Hudayriyat Island.

UAE Tour organiser RCS Sport said that the staff member had tested positive for coronavirus following a round of testing on Sunday evening. The Alpecin-Fenix team have entered self-isolation and will undergo further testing in the coming days.

"Alpecin-Fenix, in agreement with the UAE Tour organiser, have decided to withdraw its team from the race, in order to safeguard the race bubble and ensure the safe continuation of the race," read the statement.

"The team was notified of one positive result of a member of its staff from the round of tests conducted on Sunday evening, 21st of February. Upon receiving the results, the person immediately went into isolation, and all those who came into contact with this person are self-isolating, in compliance with the protocol measures put in place by the race organisers and UAE Health Authorities. 

"All team members will undertake further tests in the coming days, while they remain in isolation."

Last year’s UAE Tour was suspended two days before the finish after cases of the coronavirus were confirmed in the race caravan, and four teams remained quarantined in Abu Dhabi for many days afterwards.

A protective bubble and repeated PCR testing was introduced for this year’s event, with riders and staff flying to the United Arab Emirates aboard two charter flights from Paris and Milan.

The UCI acknowledged the decision of Alpecin-Fenix and the UAE Tour organisation, adding that it was “made in line with the national health measures in force.”

More to follow…