We have awoken to the news this morning that Mathieu van der Poel and his Alpecin-Fenix team have been removed from the UAE Tour, following an Alpecin-Fenix staff member testing positive for COVID-19. Here's what we know so far:
Does Mathieu van der Poel have COVID-19?
No. There is no indication that Mathieu van der Poel has tested positive, nor is he exhibiting symptoms. A staff member (not an athlete) tested positive, and Alpecin-Fenix riders and staff who had come in contact with that staffer are being isolated out of caution.
In fact, van der Poel's dominant victory in stage 1 of the UAE Tour suggests he is incredible shape - he did much of the work driving the breakaway for most of the day, and then won the field sprint from a reduced group.
How will this affect van der Poel's upcoming road season?
Strade Bianche, the much-anticipated "gravel classic" looming on March 6, 2021 appears to be in doubt. Mathieu van der Poel was targeting Strade Bianche, as well as Spring classics like Flanders and Paris-Roubaix in the weeks following.
It's not clear what this means for his training or travel plans yet, but if he was restricted from travel for two weeks, a Strade Bianche start could be in jeopardy.
How about other teams?
Last year, COVID-19 struck during the UAE Tour, eventually forcing some teams into hotel "lockdowns" before the entire race was cancelled part way through.
The UCI also recently announced a large number of 2021 races that have been postponed or cancelled outright due to the ongoing pandemic; as a precautionary measure, unrelated to this recent news from the UAE Tour.
Let's hope that the early isolation of Alpecin-Fenix prevents a repeat of last year's spread and hope for good health for everyone involved.