A total of 27 staff and 32 riders travelled to the UAE on Wednesday and were given the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, which underwent trials in the UAE in the final months of 2020.
Other COVID-19 vaccines are being rolled out across the world, but they are expected to be given to older, more vulnerable patients first. UAE Team Emirates manager Mauro Gianetti offered to be part of the final trial Sinopharm trials in the UAE, and his team are the first to secure vaccination, offering it to their riders and staff on a voluntary basis.
“As a UAE team we are enormously proud of the efforts the nation and its leadership has taken at every level to both combat the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and to be a leader in the efforts to bring life back to normal.” team manager Mauro Gianetti said.
“The whole team is delighted to have been given the opportunity to protect ourselves and others through taking the vaccine and we would like to congratulate the UAE and all partners of this program for their incredible work to make this happen.”
UAE Team Emirates were hit with several cases of COVID-19 last February during the UAE Tour. Fernando Gaviria notably spent a month in quarantine after contracting the disease and other riders and teams, including Pogačar, had to quarantine in the UAE. Osteopath Dario Marini spent nine days in intensive care.
The 2020 season was raced following a special COVID-19 protocol and protective bubble, with a number of riders and staff testing positive during frequent testing before and during races. The UCI is expected to extend the protocol into 2021 and teams have been cautious about arranging major training camps and travelling internationally. The Sinopharm could give UAE Team Emirates an advantage and facilitate their travel and racing for 2021.
Pogačar showed off his 2020 Tour de France winner’s yellow jersey in promotional photographs shot on Thursday in Dubai.
The UAE Team Emirates roster has been strengthened in 2021 with the arrival of Rafal Majka from Bora-Hansgrohe, while Matteo Trentin arrives from CCC Team to lead the squad’s Classics efforts alongside Fernando Gaviria and Alexander Kristoff.
As well as Critérium du Dauphiné stage winner Davide Formolo, the 2021 UAE Team Emirates roster includes Davide de la Cruz, who placed seventh at the Vuelta a España, as well as emerging talents such as Brandon McNulty, Mikkel Bjerg and Andrés Ardila.
Pogačar is expected to make his 2021 debut at the Challenge Mallorca but then return to the UAE to target the UAE Tour, now the first race on the WorldTour calendar after the cancellation of the Tour Down Under.