The Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana has become the latest in the ever increasing list of February races to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving just the Etoile de Bessèges race in France on the early-season calendar for next week.
The 2.Pro five-day stage race, won last year by Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), was due to go ahead next week, from February 3-7.
However, the COVID-19 infection rates in the Valencia region are currently the worst for the whole of Spain, forcing the race organiser to put public health first and postpone the race just six days before the start.
Just one race now remains on the Spanish calendar for February, the one-day Clásica de Almería on February 14.
With so many other races lost, the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana was set to have a star-studded line-up. Egan Bernal and Tao Geogheghan Hart were set to make their season debuts with Ineos Grenadiers, while Movistar planned to send Enric Mas, triple winner Alejandro Valverde, and Marc Soler. Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo), Greg Van Avermaet (AG2R Citroën), Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) and Simon Yates (BikeExchange) were also on the provisional start list.
As recently as Wednesday morning, organisers were still sending journalists accreditation requirements in a sign that they thought the race could go ahead. Teams were also booking flights and PCR COVID-19 tests.
However, as the pandemic continues to expand in Spain, new cases in Valencia had reached a very high rate of more than 1,600 per 100,000 people for the previous two weeks on Tuesday and the whole region is currently in a de facto lockdown, rendering it impossible to hold the race.
Although the figures had dropped slightly on Wednesday, it remained by far the highest of any Spanish province. Earlier this week, the EU also proposed that any part of a country that had gone over a two-week new case rate average of 500 per 100,000 – a third of the region of Valencia’s current total – should apply maximum restrictions on non-essential movement.
Last week, in another warning sign for the race, the one-day Clasica Comunitat Valenciana, a 1.2 race, held in the same region, slashed the overall race distance by 70 kilometres after Valencia town hall authorities told the organisers they could not have the planned finish in the regional capital’s city centre because of the pandemic.