Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome and star sprinter Mark Cavendish are among riders who will be tested for the coronavirus after the UAE Tour was cancelled amid health fears on Thursday.

The final two stages of the race were due to take place on Friday and Saturday but the race was abandoned after two members of staff on the race were taken ill.

All riders and staff were confined to their rooms at the Crowne Royal Plaza Abu Dhabi Yas Island.

Froome, who was using the race to make his long-awaited comeback from the career-threatening injuries he suffered last June, posted on Twitter that he was awaiting a test for the virus.

“It’s a shame that the #UAETour has been cancelled but public health must come first,” the Team Ineos rider wrote.

“We are all awaiting testing and will remain at the hotel until further notice. I hope those affected make a speedy recovery and there aren’t any further cases #coronavirus”

A statement from the Abu Dhabi Sports Council said: “The Abu Dhabi Sports Council has cancelled the remaining rounds of the 2020 UAE Tour after two Italian participants had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19.

“The decision has been taken to ensure protection of all the race’s participants as safety comes at the top of all priorities.

““In the meantime, the Ministry of Health and Prevention said that all the race’s participants, administrative staff and organisers will be examined through the continuous periodic screening being conducted, and all needed procedures, including quarantine measures, will be taken to ensure viral suppression and curb the spread of its outbreak in coordination with all health and other authorities concerned in the country.

“The ministry added that all the necessary precautions to ensure highly efficient preventive measures are being taken, including check-ups and observation of people in contact with patients, to guarantee protection of the society and its safety and preserve public trust.”

So far, over 80,000 people have been infected by the coronavirus globally.

More than 2,500 have died, the majority of them in China, where the virus originated.

A tweet from Team Ineos said: “Following the cancellation of the #UAETour we are monitoring the situation closely. We will follow the guidance of the relevant authorities and support them in managing this situation. The health and safety of all staff and riders is paramount.”

Adam Yates
Britain’s Adam Yates was in the leader’s red jersey following the fourth stage (Massimo Paolone/LaPresse via AP)

Riders and staff stay at the same hotel throughout the seven-stage race, which began on Sunday.

Britain’s Adam Yates, riding for Mitchelton-Scott, was in the leader’s red jersey following Thursday’s stage five to Jebel Hafeet.

Cavendish (Bahrain-McLaren), Froome and Yates were among six Britons in the race, joined by six-time British time trial champion Alex Dowsett (Israel Start-Up Nation), James Knox (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Trek-Segafredo’s Charlie Quarterman, who was making his WorldTour debut.

Irishmen Eddie Dunbar (Team Ineos) and Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-QuickStep) were also competing.

Concerns over the virus could now spread to the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Berlin.

Danish rider Michael Morkov completed the first four stages of the UAE Tour but then travelled to Berlin to compete in Sunday’s Madison, and was seen in the velodrome on Thursday.

The UCI has been asked for comment.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the world governing body said: “The UCI remains in close contact with organisers of international cycling competitions and the health authorities of host countries, in order to contribute as far as it can to the limitation of risks of the virus spreading throughout the world.”

British Cycling is liaising with the UCI’s medical team on the situation.