• The cycling doctors trading bumps and bruises for 20 hour days treating coronavirus patients (Israel Start Up Nation/Twitter)Source: Israel Start Up Nation/Twitter
A year ago, Israel-Start Up Nation doctor Dr. Maurizio Piombo stood on the crowded iconic Via Roma for Milano - San Remo. 12 months later, he contemplates the empty street in hazmat gear after seeing to yet another suspected coronavirus case.
Cycling Central

27 Mar 2020 - 2:40 PM  UPDATED 27 Mar 2020 - 2:46 PM

"I was standing there frozen with the memories when we all arrived with the race convoy," the 60-year-old said in a blog post on the Israel-Start Up Nation website.

"Thousands lined the streets excited to welcome the first group of riders fighting it out to the finish line."

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Instead of treating the "normal" injuries and illnesses of his team's riders, he is working 20-hour days, triaging patients at a nearby auditorium to determine if their cases require testing, hospitalisation or isolation. 

Although Dr. Piombo lives with the fear of contracting the virus in one of the worst countries outside China affected by the virus, he believes Italy will soon start to flatten the curve. 

"We are now testing more and more people, and with the lockdown, we see the first indication that we over the peak.

"I am fearful, though, that other countries will now face what we went through in the worst of days."

Dr. Piombo's not alone in the fight. His three Israel-Start Up Nation colleagues are also out on the coronavirus frontline. 

French doctor Cyril Bartimaeus is working in the emergency room at Grenoble University hospital and the team's head doctor Ortwin Schafer, working in Germany, could spare only a brief moment for the Israel-Start Up Nation website. 

"I had 650 patients last week. We are working 24 hours. It's everywhere: This virus kills!”

In the Belgian town of Waregem, team doctor Dr. Dag Van Elsande also sees patients in a local sports auditorium where he checks people's suspected coronavirus symptoms, referring them back to self isolation or to the local hospital.

While Belgium is not currently experiencing the same trajectory as Italy, there is still dangerous and heroic work to do. 

"We are all very well awre of the dangers we are facing. I could not stay home and do nothing. I wanted to be useful in any way I can. It is my first duty as a doctor."

But he hasn't forgot his other duties for the team and makes sure he calls "his" riders to check in on their general overall health and making sure they follow a strict eating regime even in lockdown.

"It's tough to keep your weight down under lockdown and away from racing. I try to remind them how important it is to be ready to go when we get the chance to renew the season and that they will get fewer opportunities to prove themselves."