Amstel Gold Race without key riders due to Volcano

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne), Carlos Sastre (Cervélo) and Bradley Wiggins (Sky) are among several riders to have pulled out of Sunday’s edition of the Amstel Gold Race after encountering problems getting flights to the Netherlands.

European air travel has been restricted following a volcanic eruption in Iceland, which has sent a cloud of particulates across northern European air corridors.

According to a Sky team announcement, Wiggins has been unable to get a flight from his home in Girona, Spain, to the Netherlands in time to reach the start line in Maastricht, the Netherlands, in time for Sunday’s hilly 258-kilometer classic. His teammate, Chris Froome, was delayed by flight cancellations, but will drive to Holland from his home in Tuscany.

The team said that its remaining riders have been in the area for most of the week and will easily reach the start on Sunday. Kjell Carlström, Russell Downing, Simon Gerrans and Davide Vigano went direct from Wednesday’s Brabantse Pijl race in Belgium and they were joined by Lars-Petter Nordhaug and Mathew Hayman.

That means Sky will meet the required minimum number of six riders when the team finalizes its line up on Saturday afternoon. Other teams are also thought to have been affected.

Sastre’s Cervélo team announced Saturday that the Madrid-based rider’s flight had been cancelled, while Ukrainian Volodymyr Gustov pulled out for the same reason.

Another Amstel contender, Valverde, was forced out late on Saturday when he and two other Caisse d’Epargne teammates, Luis Leon Sanchez and Luis Pasamontes, were unable to fly out of Madrid.

European regulators have closed airports and cancelled flights as a precautionary measure since the particulates from an eruption can seriously damage jet engines.

Sastre said that if flights are resumed in time, he intends to take part in Wednesday’s Fleche Wallonne, a race he had originally not planned to contest.

“It’s an act of God,” said race director Leo van Vliet. “Nothing can be done against this. Several teams have contacted our organization and they are already taking all possible measures so that they can be (here) on time.”

“The flights were to take Friday Sastre, Gustov and Xavier Tondo were canceled,” the Cervélo team announced Saturday. “For Tondo, we found a solution by car. For Sastre and Gustov, we were dependent on getting flights.”