More sporting events affected by spreading virus

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FILE – In this Saturday, March 21, 2009 file photo, the pack pedals by the town of Campo Ligure during the Milan-San Remo cycling classic in Italy. The impact of the Covid-19 virus on cycling has been escalating as Australian team Mitchelton-Scott decided to withdraw from racing until March 22. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati, File)

MILAN (AP) — More cycling races were canceled Friday and more soccer matches will be played in empty stadiums because of the virus outbreak spreading around the world.

RCS Sport, which organizes cycling events in Italy, canceled the Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo races as well as the Giro di Sicilia.

On Thursday, the Strade Bianche men’s and women’s races were canceled.

“RCS Sport will request the UCI, via the Italian Cycling Federation, to allocate new dates on the international cycling calendar for the three races, as has already been requested for Strade Bianche and Strade Bianche Women Elite,” RCS said in a statement.

The Italian government issued a decree on Wednesday that all sporting events in the country must take place without spectators until April 3. That includes Serie A, Italy’s top soccer league.

Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo were scheduled for this month, while the Giro di Sicilia was due to take place from April 1-4.

The canceled races will have implications as riders prepare for the year’s biggest events, such as the Giro d’Italia (May 9-31) and the Tour de France (June 27-July 19). The Tour is slated to start a week earlier this year to avoid conflict with the Tokyo Olympics.

Italy is the epicenter of Europe’s coronavirus outbreak. More than 100 people have died and more than 3,000 have been infected, mainly in the northern part of the country.

Cycling teams had already begun withdrawing from the Strade Bianche and other races this month in Italy and France, with some stopping racing altogether for much of March.

Spain-based cycling team Movistar also announced Friday that it was suspending participation in all races until March 22. The team led by Alejandro Valverde will miss the Paris-Nice race, among other events.

In rugby, the governing body of the sport in Italy said it has suspended all activity, including training. Six Nations matches against Ireland and England have already been postponed.

Also, Danish soccer club Copenhagen said all of its games in March would be played without fans.

The decision followed comments from Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, who said events with crowds of more than 1,000 should be canceled or postponed because of the virus.

Copenhagen said its Danish league games against Horsens, Randers FC and Lyngby, and the Europa League match against Istanbul Basaksehir, would be affected. Copenhagen said it had no information about its return game in Istanbul.

Two other Danish soccer teams, FC Midtjylland and Aarhus, have halted all physical interviews with players, coaches and other employees. Instead, any interviews will be done by telephone.

Interview opportunities with the media following matches will still be possible but will be reduced to a few minutes and with a safety distance of two meters (yards) between the player and the interviewer.

No one with the clubs has tested positive, but former Denmark national team player Thomas Kahlenberg has been put in quarantine because of the virus. Kahlenberg, who represented Denmark at the 2010 World Cup, attended a Danish league match on Sunday between Brondby and Lyngby. Several people related to those clubs have been quarantined as a precaution.

News conferences and media opportunities following soccer matches in Italy have also been scrapped, though TV broadcasters should still be allowed to carry out interviews under certain conditions.

In France, the roof at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy will remain open even if it rains when Lille hosts Lyon in a league match on Sunday.

“We will have to have the roof open with regards to the spreading of the virus,” Lille coach Christophe Galtier said. “We have to abide by this decision.”

The coronavirus reached 577 cases in France by Friday, with nine deaths, the country’s health ministry said. The French soccer league also has measures in place to help contain the virus, such as no handshakes and other modified protocol.

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