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Van Garderen leaves Paris-Nice after Trump announces coronavirus travel ban

Tejay van Garderen.
Tejay van Garderen. (Image credit: Getty Images)

Tejay van Garderen has left Paris-Nice in order to head home to the USA before the travel ban imposed by President Donald Trump begins. 

After placing 21st in the stage 4 time trial, Van Garderen did not take to the start of stage 5 of the French race on Thursday. 

His team did not issue any communication relating to his exit from the race but Van Garderen himself confirmed the rationale behind his departure in a post on Instagram on Thursday afternoon.

"Obviously this is a tough decision. My young brother, @sergioandreshiguita [Sergio Higuita -ed,] I believe is about to win Paris-Nice. Yet I won’t be able to be there to celebrate with him in Nice. My wife and kids had plans to travel from the US to Nice for the final, but given the current circumstances I couldn’t risk being separated from them with no options of seeing them," Van Garderen wrote.

"So I am returning to the US. I hope this situation will be resolved quickly and everyone can get back to normal life. I am hopeful this will all blow over and I can continue my season with @tourderomandie [Tour de Romandie] and beyond. Until then I will continue to train and stay ready. There is a lot of racing left in the season. But health, safety, and family come first. Until then......go @efprocycling!!!!!!"

On Wednesday, in reaction to the coronavirus pandemic, Trump announced restrictions on travel into the US from Europe, specifically from countries in the open-border Schengen Area, which includes France. The ban comes into force at 11.59pm ET on Friday and is scheduled to last for 30 days but only applies to non-US citizens.

"The restriction applies to foreign nationals who have been in the Schengen Area, 26 countries in Europe with open borders agreements, in the last 14 days," a White House statement said. "Those who are exempt from these restrictions, such as American citizens, will be directed to a limited number of airports where screening can take place."

It does not apply to US citizens, but Van Garderen was reportedly cautious and unwilling to take any risks.

Van Garderen's decision comes as a blow to EF Pro Cycling, who have Sergio Higuita in fourth place and in contention for the overall title. The Colombian trails race leader Max Schachmann by 1:06 and Van Garderen was set to play a support role as the race becomes increasingly hilly on its way south to Nice. 

Van Garderen's exit from Paris-Nice is the latest in a series of disruptions to professional cycling as a result of the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak, which was declared a global pandemic on Wednesday. 

All racing in Italy in March - including Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo, and Trofeo Alfredo Binda - has been called off, while the UAE Tour was wrapped up two days early after an outbreak of the virus in the teams' hotel. Several teams have withdrawn from racing in March, while doubts surround the running of the Spring Classics and Volta a Catalunya. 

Paris-Nice is going ahead but was moved 'behind closed doors', with restrictions on fans accessing the start and finish areas. Riders are reportedly doubtful that the race will reach Nice - 30km from the Italian border - although race director Christian Prudhomme yesterday insisted the race would reach its conclusion on Sunday.

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