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Team Ineos has withdrawn from all racing until the Volta a Catalunya on March 23 following both the death of sports director Nico Portal, and uncertainty around the spread of coronavirus.
In a statement issued Wednesday evening, the team said it wanted “first and foremost to look after our team members, their family and friends, who are all grieving for a much loved teammate and whose funeral will be taking place in the coming days.” The team also recognised its “duty of healthcare to riders and staff in what is a very fast moving and challenging situation with coronavirus. We have taken the best medical advice and recognise that these are exceptional times for everyone – beyond just cycling.”
Team principal Dave Brailsford said it was a uniquely sad time for everyone at Ineos.
“We have lost someone we all loved very much and are all grieving for Nico,” he said. “I would like to thank everyone for their messages following the tragic news yesterday. They have really meant a lot to us all as we try to come to terms with this terrible news. Nico meant the world to us as a team and it is genuinely touching to know how much he also meant to everyone else across the sport.”
Speaking on the subject of coronavirus, Brailsford highlighted cycling’s “uniquely mobile” nature.
“We have a duty of care both to our riders and staff but also to the people living in the areas where we race,” he said. “We do not want to be in a position where our riders become potentially infected or quarantined on race as has already happened. Equally we are acutely aware that these are difficult times for all local health services and we do not want to put any additional pressure or burden whatsoever upon them when all their focus should rightly be on their own local population.
“This pause will give us the time to grieve for Nico in private, to support each other at what is a very sad moment and to treasure the memory of a great and much loved teammate and friend. We hope everyone will understand why this is so important to us.”
The British team will not take part in Strade Bianche, Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo, Nokere Koerse or Bredene Koksijde Classic. Ineos joins Mitchelton-Scott in having withdrawn from several weeks of racing and joins a handful of men’s and women’s teams who have pulled out of this weekend’s Strade Bianche.