Four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome’s debut for his new Israel Start-Up Nation team has been put on hold after organizers announced Monday they had called off the Vuelta a San Juan due to the coronavirus.
Froome was due to don his new colors after a decade in the jersey of the British Ineos Grenadiers — formerly Team Sky — when the week-long Argentine race was due to begin on January 24 was cancelled.
But he will now likely have to wait until the start of the Volta ao Algarve on February 17 to begin his season. The decision to cancel the race “responds to the public and well-known facts, and the recommendations of national and international organizations with reference to coronavirus,” said the Vuelta a San Juan organizers in a statement.
Organizers vowed to keep “working with the same passion and spirit” to ensure the race would return to the international calendar in future years.
Professional cycling’s calendar was hard hit in 2020 by the coronavirus but authorities still managed to put on all three Grand Tours.
Already this year, though, the Australian-based Tour Down Under, Herald Sun Tour and Great Ocean Race have been cancelled.
Speaking to reporters last week, Froome said that “changing teams like this at this point in my career will give me so much more mental motivation and stimulation.
“It’s a whole new project, a new chapter. It feels quite rejuvenating for me.”
Now 35, Froome was in 2011 the first ever British rider to win a Grand Tour when he triumphed at the Vuelta a Espana, although he had to wait until 2019 to learn of his success after Spaniard Juan Jose Cobo was belatedly stripped of his win for doping.
Froome has since gone on to win seven Grand Tours including the Giro d’Italia in 2018 and another Vuelta a Espana in 2017, as well as four Tour de France successes from 2013-17.
Last year’s Vuelta a San Juan was won by the then 19-year-old Belgian sensation Remco Evenepoel.
RBA/AFP Photos: Bettini