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Van Vleuten: 'Health above all' as coronavirus outbreak threatens Strade Bianche cancellation

SIENA ITALY MARCH 09 Podium Annika Langvad of Denmark and Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam Annemiek van Vleuten of The Netherlands and Team Mitchelton Scott Katarzyna Niewiadoma of Poland and Team CanyonSRAM Celebration Trophy during the 5th Strade Bianche 2019 Women a 136km race from Siena to Siena Piazza del Campo StradeBianche Eroica on March 09 2019 in Siena Italy Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Annemiek van Vleuten has expressed her disappointment at not being able to compete in the upcoming Strade Bianche on Saturday, a race she won last year, as it faces cancellation due to an outbreak of the coronavirus in Italy. 

The reigning world champion, however, said she was thankful that Mitchelton-Scott has pulled her and the team from the race and ensured health is the main priority.

"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."

Mitchelton-Scott announced Wednesday that they have withdrawn both their men’s and women’s teams from all racing with immediate effect until at least March 22 in light of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak in Europe.

The decision means that the men’s team will be absent from races including Paris-NiceStrade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo. The women’s team will miss three Women's WorldTour races: Strade Bianche (March 7), Ronde van Drenthe (March 15) and Trofeo Binda (March 22) along with Danilith Nokere Koerse (March 18).

Shortly after Mitchelton-Scott made the announcement, the Italian government called a halt to all sporting and public events for a month, until April 3, in an attempt to limit the spread of the coronavirus Covid-19.

Van Vleuten had already begun her season with a victory at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last weekend. She was scheduled to race in select one-day races this spring with the next being Strade Bianche, where she had hoped to defend her title. 

She is then scheduled to race Dwars door Vlaanderen on April 1 and the Tour of Flanders on April 5. She will then turn her attention to the Ardennes Classics: Amstel Gold Race on April 19, Flèche Wallonne on April 22 and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, which she won last year, on April 26.