(Reuters) - The return of professional cycle racing next month might be too soon and could lead to outbreaks of novel coronavirus, according to Deceuninck-Quick-Step boss Patrick Lefevere.
The WorldTour is due to return on Aug. 1 with the Strade Bianche one-day event in Tuscany but racing will resume before that with Lefevere's team involved in the inaugural Belgian Grote Prijs Vermac one-day race in Rotselaar on July 5.
Several other leading teams will be involved but Lefevere has watched the debacle of Novak Djokovic's Adria Tour tennis event after which he and several other players tested positive.
He fears the same thing could happen in cycling -- one of the first sports to be affected by the pandemic when the UAE Tour was shut down in February after some positive tests.
"My worst nightmare is that the races in July -- like in tennis -- lead to infections," Lefevere wrote in his column in Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad.
"Let it be a lesson for all cycling races that will start again in July. Coronavirus clusters are now shooting up like mushrooms. I hope that enough attention is paid to prevention.
"I have said it before, at races the attention to hygiene and the risk of contamination is a kind of second nature. In tennis -- with the richest sponsors in the world -- you may think that you are untouchable."
WorldTour teams are preparing for the restart of the season in various ways, with the Lotto-Soudal team in the Ardennes.
Rider Jasper De Buyst says he believes it's inevitable that there will be new coronavirus cases in the peloton, simply because of the nature of cycle racing.
"In the race, you will think about the whole situation in the beginning," he was quoted as saying by Cycling Weekly. "But in a peloton of 150 riders, it is impossible not to ride in each other's snot.
"If you think about that and you want to avoid it, you just have to not start."
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)