The Giro d’Italia was thrown into chaos Tuesday when two full teams, another overall contender and one more elite rider withdrew from the cycling race following a series of positive tests for the coronavirus.
The Mitchelton-Scott and Jumbo-Visma teams left the race before Stage 10.
Four Mitchelton-Scott staff members tested positive. That came after Mitchelton-Scott team leader Simon Yates withdrew before Saturday’s eighth stage after also contracting COVID-19.
Dutch contender Steven Kruijswijk of Jumbo-Visma and rider Michael Matthews of Team Sunweb also tested positive amid 571 exams for all riders and staff members coinciding with Monday’s rest day.
Kruijswijk and Matthews were withdrawn from the event.
Then Jumbo-Visma announced minutes before the stage started that it was withdrawing its team, too — although the stage still started with the 20 remaining teams.
In addition, one staff member for the Ineos Grenadiers team and one staff member for AG2R-La Mondiale came back positive and were put into isolation.
Giro director Mauro Vegni had acknowledged concern over the tests. He suggested last week that the race won’t have a winner if it doesn’t finish as planned in Milan on Oct. 25.
“Unfortunately we received the news on Monday evening that we have returned a number of positive COVID-19 results to members of our staff after our third round of tests in three days,” Mitchelton-Scott general manager Brent Copeland said. “As a social responsibility to our riders and staff, the peloton and the race organization we have made the clear decision to withdraw from the Giro d’Italia.”
Italy has been hovering around 5,000 new coronavirus cases per day, prompting the government to consider more restrictions after making masks mandatory outdoors last week.
Stage 10 of the Giro was being raced in the central Abruzzo region, over a 177-kilometer (110-mile) leg from Lanciano to Tortoreto.
“Thankfully those impacted remain asymptomatic or with mild symptoms, but as an organization the health of all of our riders and staff is our main priority and we are now focused on safely transporting them to areas where they are most comfortable to conduct a period of quarantine,” Copeland said.
Kruijswijk stood 11th overall, 1 minute, 24 seconds behind race leader João Almeida. He’s had three career top-10 finishes in the Giro.
“Within the team we take a lot of measures to avoid contamination. And I just feel fit. I can’t believe I got it. It is a very big disappointment to get this news,” Kruijswijk said. “It is a pity that I have to leave the Giro this way.”
Matthews was not in overall contention — he was nearly an hour behind Almeida — but he is a punchy rider and strong sprinter who was aiming for stage victories. The Australian rider has won a total of eight stages in the three Grand Tours — the Giro (2), Tour de France (3) and Spanish Vuelta (3).
Team Sunweb said Matthews “is currently asymptomatic, feels healthy and after receiving the results early this morning, he is now in quarantine.”
Sunweb added that all of its other riders and staff members returned negative tests.
“The team will continue to closely monitor all within their bubble, operating with as much discipline as possible, doing the maximum it can,” Sunweb said.
The Giro was rescheduled from its usual May slot because of the coronavirus pandemic.
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