The entire men's Astana team has been forced to pull out of the Virtual Tour de France – the six-stage Tour being run on virtual training app Zwift across three weekends – due to difficulties with their internet connection at their altitude training camp in Sierra Nevada, Spain, the team has reported.
The team first experienced difficulties during stage 3 on Saturday – which was won by Rally Cycling's Matteo Dal-Cin – but hoped that their connection problems might have been resolved for stage 4 on Sunday.
"All our riders were motivated to do a good race, but unfortunately problems with our internet connection forced our riders to give up somewhere in the middle of the stage," sports manager Dmitriy Fofonov said on the team's website after stage 3.
"These things happen, as sometimes it is a problem to find a good connection at altitude," he added.
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However, the team's riders were non-starters for Sunday's stage 4 – won by Freddy Ovett (Israel Start-Up Nation) – and Astana were reluctantly forced to pull out of the virtual stage race, which concludes with stages 5 and 6 next weekend (July 18 and 19).
"Together with the support of the race organisation, we tried to fix the problem, but, unfortunately, the technical possibilities of the connection we have here in the mountains cannot support all the specifications required by the virtual race," Fofonov explained on Sunday.
"We would like to thank the organisation of the race for their great support, as well as for the opportunity to take part in this amazing sports event. It's a great initiative, which allows all teams to feel the competitive spirit again and to show their team colours," he continued.
"Now, it's time to train hard on the road to get ready for the rest of the season. Good luck to all the teams at the virtual race, and we'll see you soon in Nice at the start of the real Tour de France."