Pogacar's UAE Emirates team out of Fleche Wallonne

Charleroi (Belgium) (AFP) –

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Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar's Team UAE Emirates announced on Wednesday they had withdrawn from the Fleche Wallonne due to Covid-19 cases within the team, hours before the classic started.

Pogacar was scheduled to race alongside last year's Fleche Wallonne winner Marc Hirschi.

"We regret to inform that UAE Team Emirates will not participate in Fleche Wallonne due to 2 members returning positive tests for Covid-19 on April 20," the outfit said in a statement.

"The two members of the team concerned, Diego Ulissi and one staff member (who is also vaccinated), returned 2 negative tests in the days before travelling to Belgium.

"Upon arrival to Belgium both underwent a subsequent test which returned a positive result," they added.

UAE Emirates said they aim to participate in Sunday's Liege-Bastogne-Liege, another key early season race.

Belgian Wout van Aert won the first Ardennes classic of the season, the Amstel Gold Race last Sunday, but has been ommitted from Jumbo Visma's lineup for Wednesday's Fleche Wallonne which starts in Charleroi.

Van Aert's team-mate Primoz Roglic and world champion Julian Alaphilippe are among the contenders in the 194-kilometre race.