Any team waking up in Gent on Friday morning will have been greeted by an unexpected smattering of snow, social media managers rushing to snap photos of their vehicle convoys covered in the white stuff. For any other race they may have thought twice about sticking around, but De Ronde is non-negotiable.
For Israel – Premier Tech, they’ve been left with no choice. Forced to pull out of the Tour of Flanders as the team succumbed to the illness and injury currently rampant in the peloton before a second positive Covid test in Belgium yesterday put a pin in the team’s De Ronde participation.
“This is a very regrettable situation and we are extremely disappointed to have to withdraw from Ronde van Vlaanderen. This decision has not been taken lightly but we feel this is our only option at this stage,” General Manager Kjell Carlström said.
The team’s squad was already depleted, as many currently are, heading into Sunday’s Monument, and when two of their healthy riders came into close contact with positive covid-19 cases it was decided, for the health of the entire peloton, that they withdraw.
“It is no secret we have had covid and other illness and also crash-induced injuries wiping out the majority of our riders at one stage or another in recent weeks,” Carlström continued. “Right now, we have very few healthy riders who could take to the start line, but they are now close contacts, and it is out of respect for the race and the rest of the peloton, that we are making this decision. It is our duty of care to the other teams to not be willingly sending riders who have been exposed to covid into a race.
“By withdrawing from the race, we are allowing our cobbled classics riders to recover and hit the reset button. No one is more disappointed than us but hopefully, this decision will allow us to save the remainder of the spring season and get back on track.”
“Painful moment to see the team pulling out for Tour of Flanders,” added rider Sep Vanmarcke. “A hard decision they had to make, but with the current situation in the team, this was the only solution. [It’s the first time in my career I have to miss Tour of Flanders. Sunday will be painful to watch on TV, but we have to turn the page and look to what is in front of us.”