The Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana has become the latest in the ever increasing list of February races to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving just the Etoile de Bessèges race in France on the early-season calendar for next week.
The 2.Pro five-day stage race, won last year by Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) was due to go ahead next week, from February 3rd - 7th.
However the COVID-19 infection rates in the Valencia region are currently the worst for the whole of Spain, forcing the race organiser to put public health first and postpone the race just six days before the start.
The Vuelta CV Feminas, the one-day race run by the same organisation on the same route as the final stage of the men’s Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana has also be postponed from its February date.
Just one race now remains on the Spanish calendar for February, the one-day Clásica de Almeria on February 14th.
"The reasons which have made us take this decision are caused by the current sanitary situation brought on by COVID-19. Everybody’s health has to take priority over sport," the race organiser said in a brief announcement, hoping to secure a new date for the race, possibly in May.
With so many other races lost, the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana was set to have a star-studded line-up. Egan Bernal and Tao Geogheghan Hart were set to make their season debut with Ineos Grenadiers, Movistar planned to send Enric Mas, triple winner Alejandro Valverde and Marc Soler. Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo), Greg Van Avermaet (AG2R), Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) and Simon Yates (Bike Exchange) were also on the provisional start list.
As recently as Wednesday morning, organisers were still sending journalists accreditation requirements in a sign that they thought the race could go ahead. Teams were also booking flights and PCR COVID-19 tests.
However, as the pandemic continues to expand in Spain, new cases in Valencia had reached a very high rate of more than 1,600 per 100,000 for the previous two weeks on Tuesday and the whole region is currently in a de facto lockdown, rendering it impossible to hold the race.
Although the figures had dropped slightly on Wednesday, it remained by far the highest of any Spanish province. Earlier this week the EU also proposed that any part of a country which had gone over a two-week new case rate average of 500 per 100,000, a third of the region of Valencia’s current total, should apply maximum restrictions on non-essential movements.
Then last week, in another warning sign for the race, the one-day Clasica Comunitat Valenciana, a 1.2 race, held in the same region, slashed the overall race distance by 70 kilometres after Valencia town hall authorities told the organisers they could not have the planned finish in the regional capital’s city centre because of the pandemic.
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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