Organisers of Milan-San Remo have said that this year’s race, due to take place in less than four weeks’ time, could be at risk of cancellation because of the outbreak of coronavirus that has seen Italy’s government put some areas under effective lockdown, with race director Mauro Vegni admitting that there is “no Plan B.”
The Corriere della Sera reports Vegni, speaking from the UAE Tour in Dubai, as saying that RCS Sport, which owns the race, “are very worried for the spread of the virus because the situation in Italy is truly difficult.”
Special measures including suspending sporting activities and closing educational facilities have been introduced across Northern Italy as the authorities try and contain the virus which has so far been linked to three deaths there, with more than 100 cases notified.
As we reported last week, steps already taken following the outbreak of the virus in the Far East are predicted to have an impact on the global cycling industry, and with Lombardy and the Veneto most affected by coronavirus, there could be a further knock-on effect.
The two regions are together the powerhouses of Italy’s cycling industry, with Lombardy home to brands including Bianchi, Colnago, Columbus and Santini SMS, while the Veneto houses the likes of Fizik, Pinarello, Selle Italia and Sidi.
While many brands source much of their product from the Far East, any measures implemented to deal with the outbreak in Italy such as travel restrictions or closing businesses could clearly have an effect on functions such as sales and marketing, as well as design and research and development.
Turning to sport, this weekend saw four Serie A football matches in Northern Italy postponed, where bike races and other events were also cancelled yesterday on the advice of CONI, the Italian national Olympic committee.
The next two major events on the men’s calendar, Strade Bianche, which also has a women’s race, and Tirreno-Adriatico, both take place next month in regions outside the areas currently affected.
Late March however, sees the season’s first Monument, Milan-San Remo, plus the Women’s WorldTour race the Trofeo Binda, raced around Cittiglio on the shores of Lake Maggiore.
Milan-San Remo, held this year on 21 March, begins in Lombardy and finishes in Liguria, with a brief excursion into Piedmont along the way. Schools and universities in all three regions, along with those in Veneto, Emilia-Romagna and Alto Adige, will be closed for at least a week.
Vegni said: “Our chief concerns are Tirreno-Adriatico and above all Milan-San Remo both scheduled within the next month, for which there are and cannot be any Plan B from an organisational point of view.
“If the government confirms the suspension of sport in Lombardy we will be forced to cancel it because there is no sense moving the start by 20 or 50 kilometres; the race is what it’s been for 110 years.”
Previously the race, first held in 2007, has only been cancelled in wartime – first in 1916, and again in 1944 and 1945.
“I hope that the peak is going to turn down,” Vegni added. “We can’t say anything about [May’s] Giro d’Italia yet, but if the peak doesn’t turn down there is the risk that we won’t be able to hold it.”
Yesterday had been due to see the start of the second-tier UCI ProSeries race the Tour of Hainan in China, but the governing body announced in late January that the event had been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.