Multiple teams still “held against their will” in UAE hotels

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Three pro teams remain locked in their hotel in Abu Dhabi, “held against our will,” according to Cofidis president Thierry Vittu, given trainers to stay fit but disallowed from getting their bikes out of the basement to actually ride them.

“We are treated as if we have the plague, our rooms haven’t been made up in five days and we have to go to the lift to pick up sheets, soap and towels,” said Vittu, who is with his team in the hotel.

The situation began when two team staff apparently tested positive for coronavirus late last week. The end of the UAE Tour was canceled, and all teams, media, and staff were locked into their hotels as each person was tested for the virus. As those tests came back negative, most teams and media were allowed to leave.

Cofidis, Groupama-FDJ, and Gazprom all remain in lockdown, along with UAE Team Emirates, which has opted to stay behind voluntarily. According to sources within the hotel, the original positive cases were from within the UAE Team, and the team has thus self-quarantined. The rest of the teams, as well as media and the staff of RCS, the race organizer, have all gone home.

“I think that this situation is really not normal. We’re being held against our will in a place we didn’t choose and for an unknown length of time,” Vittu said.

“When we meet someone from the hotel in the corridor, he runs away. We are treated like plague victims; our rooms have not been made since we arrived five days ago, we have to go in front of the elevator, there is a cart and we help ourselves with sheets, soaps and towels.

“That’s the situation, some live it well, for others, it’s more complicated.”

The teams still stuck in Abu Dhabi are all staying on the same floor of their hotel. The quarantine includes numerous riders focused on the coming classics season, including Arnaud Demare (FDJ) and Nathan Haas (Cofidis).

Communication has been poor or nonexistent, according to multiple riders.

“It’s a strange situation. We are not really getting any information and that is the most frustrating part of the whole experience,” Haas told the BBC.

“You are following the news pattern of your story in the media as opposed to being told from your hotel. There are security guards everywhere and all the doors are shut.”

UAE authorities have said they are awaiting the outcome of a second series of tests before allowing the teams to depart.

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