Two days before the start of the Absa Cape Epic – one of the world’s most iconic endurance events held in South Africa – a major professional team announced their withdrawal from the event due to the global impact of the novel Coronavirus (Covid-19).

Concern regarding the virus’s spread quickly escalated following an announcement on Wednesday by the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring the Covid-19 outbreak a global pandemic.

This prompted race organisers around the world to postpone or cancel events this year. The global mass participation endurance community was particularly hard hit, with the following events confirming cancellations or a change in date:

  • New York Half Marathon (cancelled)
  • World half-marathon championships in Poland (postponed)
  • Boston Marathon (postponed)
  • Paris marathon (postponed)
  • Rome marathon (cancelled)

And as speculation around the future of other major events like the London Marathon and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics continue to circulate, numerous professional cycling teams withdraw from the Paris-Nice and Ronde van Drenthe. Cycle races in Italy – the epicentre of the outbreak in Europe – have also been cancelled.

Pro teams exit Absa Cape Epic

The trend continued today, 13 March 2020, when the Specialized Racing pro team announced their withdrawal from the 2020 Absa Cape Epic, a day before the prologue.

Citing concerns over the health and wellbeing of family members that remained in home countries in Europe and elsewhere in the world, where infection rates continue to rise exponentially, and their desire to help contain the disease’s spread, Specialized Racing announced their decision. The Spanish MMR FRT pro team announced they would not travel to the event earlier in the week.

Future of other local endurance events uncertain

While the Cape Epic event organisers have not cancelled the event, speculation is mounting regarding the future of other iconic endurance events in South Africa planned for the coming months.

The situation remains highly dynamic, especially as South Africa has yet to report its first transmitted case – all current cases stem from residents travelling to regions with high infection rates.

As a consequence, organisers of endurance events like the Two Oceans and Comrades ultra-marathons have affirmed that while they continue to monitor developments, the races are still scheduled to proceed as planned.

IRONMAN athletes warned of possible cancellations

However, the future of the Standard Bank IRONMAN African Championships hangs in the balance after The Ironman Group released a statement saying that the company “expects that there are going to be substantial and widespread event postponements in the coming weeks and months”.

The statement continues: “The decision to proceed, restrict, modify or postpone an event will be based on the availability of community resources and ongoing event-specific risk assessment in coordination with the relevant healthcare and government authorities and the IRONMAN Global Medical Advisory Board, an independent medical advisory board focused on health and safety.”

UPDATE: The Ironman Group released the following statement on 13 March 2020: “In alignment with the Provincial Department of Health, and due to the force majeure COVID-19 pandemic, IRONMAN race officials in conjunction with local authorities have decided to postpone the 2020 IRONMAN®️ African Championship in Nelson Mandela Bay originally scheduled for 29 March to 15 November 2020. Athletes that are registered for the event will receive an email with further details.”

Stay tuned to LivingFit for regular updates on the status of your target event, and tips on how to prepare for mass participation sporting events amid the Covid-19 outbreak.