Cycling race canceled with 2 virus cases; Froome quarantined

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A major cycling race in the United Arab Emirates was canceled early Friday after two Italians tested positive for the new coronavirus, setting off a quarantine that also ensnared four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome of Britain.

The Abu Dhabi Sports Council’s decision to cancel the race comes as the virus rapidly spreads across the wider Middle East, with over 370 confirmed cases. Many link back to Iran, which has the highest death toll outside of China, the epicenter of the virus that causes the COVID-19 illness.

Just a day earlier, Saudi Arabia took the unprecedented step of closing Islam’s holiest sites off to foreign pilgrims to stop the virus’ spread. Meanwhile, the virus continued its spread across top leaders in Iran, afflicting Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar. She’s better known as “Sister Mary,” the English-speaking spokeswoman for the students who seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and sparked the 444-day hostage crisis.

The number of infections in Iran has spiked Thursday by over 100 to at least 254, but a World Health Organization official said he believes that figure is “a substantial underestimate of the true number.”

In Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, its sports council said two Italians involved in the race tested positive for the new coronavirus. It said it would cancel the two remaining legs of the competition in Abu Dhabi.

“Safety comes at the top of all priorities,” the council said.

“All the race’s participants, administrative staff and organisers will be examined through the continuous periodic screening being conducted, and all needed procedures, including quarantine measures, will be taken to ensure viral suppression,” the council added.

That quarantine appeared to ensnare Froome, 34, who was using the tour as a comeback after suffering injuries in a bad 2019 crash.

“It’s a shame that the (hash)UAETour has been cancelled but public health must come first,” Froome wrote on Twitter. “We are all awaiting testing and will remain at the hotel until further notice. I hope those affected make a speedy recovery and there aren’t any further cases (hash)coronavirus.”

Italian team Vini Zabu – KTM tweeted pictures of ambulances outside of an Abu Dhabi hotel hosting the riders and participants.

“Our riders have been tested. Tomorrow morning we will know the results,” the team tweeted. “It’s gonna be a long night and we hope that everyone will come back home without any trouble.”

The United Arab Emirates, a federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula also home to Dubai, earlier reported 19 cases of the coronavirus. Several are Iranians, while others are or have links to Chinese tourists.

Giro d’Italia to start on former railway line in Abruzzo

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L’AQUILA, Italy — The 2023 edition of the Giro d’Italia will start with an individual time trial on a coastal cycle path that has been recreated from a former railway line in the region of Abruzzo.

At a ceremony in the Abruzzo capital of L’Aquila, race organizers announced that the Grand Tour will run from May 6-28 and begin with an 18.4-kilometer (11.4-mile) time trial on the Adriatic coast.

Almost the entire time trial will be on the spectacular Costa dei Trabocchi cycle path that hugs the coast line before a short climb to the finish in Ortona.

“I am excited at the idea of the Grande Partenza (Big Start) of the Giro in Abruzzo . It is a dream come true, especially with regard to the prologue on the Costa dei Trabocchi,” said Trek-Segafredo cyclist Dario Cataldo, who is from the region.

“I well remember that when the cycle path project was born and I saw the first tracks, I imagined the beauty of a Giro d’Italia passing along the route. It looked perfect.”

Stage 2 is a 204-kilometer (127-mile) leg from Teramo to San Salvo that is hilly in the first part but expected to end in a bunch sprint.

Stage 3 will also start in the Abruzzo region, in Vasto, but it will then head south and will be detailed when the full route is revealed on Oct. 17 in Milan.

The Giro will also return to the region for Stage 7, a daunting climb on the Gran Sasso d’Italia to Campo Imperatore. The high mountain stage, on May 12, will be the edition’s first finish above 2,000 meters.

Australian Jai Hindley won this year’s Giro.

Norway takes gold-medal lead at world road cycling titles

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WOLLONGONG, Australia – Soren Waerenskjold repeated Norway’s gold medal success at the world road cycling championships a day after Tobias Foss finished first in the elite men’s time trial.

Waerenskjold won the men’s under-23 time trial on the second day of the championships with a dominant performance. He clocked 34 minutes, 13.40 seconds over the 28.8-kilometer course to beat Belgian Alec Segaert by 16.34 seconds.

British rider Leo Hayter, the younger brother of elite rider Ethan Hayter, was 24.16 seconds off the pace for the bronze medal.

Foss beat a strong field to win the elite time trial, the biggest win of his career.

Norway has two gold medals, while Dutch ace Ellen van Dijk beat Australian Grace Brown to take out the women’ elite time trial.

The mixed relay time trial is set for Wednesday. The championships conclude on the weekend with the women’s road race on Saturday and the men’s on Sunday.