(Reuters) – The return of professional cycling next month may be too soon and could lead to epidemics of new coronavirus, according to Patrick Lefevere, boss of Deceuninck-Quick-Step.
Patrick Lefevere, Quick Step team leader attends a press conference with Belgian sprint specialist Tom Boonen in Wielsbeke on June 11, 2008. Boonen, who won the title of world cycling champion in 2005, is the subject of an investigation for suspected possession of cocaine after traces of the drug were found in a urine sample late on May 26. REUTERS / Yves Herman (BELGIUM)
The WorldTour is due to return on August 1 with the one-day Strade Bianche event in Tuscany, but the race will resume before that with the Lefevere team involved in the first Belgian one-day race Grote Prijs Vermac in Rotselaar on July 5 .
Several other leading teams will be involved, but Lefevere watched Novak Djokovic’s Adria Tour tennis event debacle, after which he and several other players turned out to be positive.
He worries that the same thing could happen in cycling – one of the first sports hit by the pandemic when the UAE Tour was closed in February after positive tests.
“My worst nightmare is that the July races – like tennis – cause infections,” Lefevere writes in his column for the Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad.
“Let this be a lesson for all the cycling races which will start again in July. Coronavirus clusters are now growing like mushrooms. I hope that sufficient attention will be paid to prevention.
“I have already said that during the races, the attention paid to hygiene and the risk of contamination is a kind of second nature. In tennis – with the richest sponsors in the world – you may think you are untouchable. ”
WorldTour teams are preparing for the start of the season in different ways, with the Lotto-Soudal team in the Ardennes.
Rider Jasper De Buyst says he believes it is inevitable that there will be new cases of coronavirus in the peloton, simply due to the nature of the cycling races.
“In racing you will think of the whole situation at the start,” he said in Cycling Weekly. “But in a peloton of 150 runners, it is impossible not to ride in the snot of the other.
“If you think about it and want to avoid it, just don’t start.”
Martyn Herman report; Editing by Ken Ferris