ROME — 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 Kruijswijk and Matthews were withdrawn from the event.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 the rest of its team, too. Still, the stage started with the 20 remaining teams and 145 remaining riders.
“We all have been in contact with [Kruijswijk] for the past days,” Jumbo-Visma sports director Addy Engels told RAI state TV. “So the risk of passing it through to someone else has been there for several days. We are not going to keep taking the risk.”
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 has suggested that the race won’t have a winner if it doesn’t finish as planned in Milan on Oct. 25. The race was already rescheduled from its usual May slot because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This morning, all of the teams with positive cases were given new, rapid tests and we’ll do that again tomorrow,” Vegni said. “We’ve performed nearly 1,500 tests and frankly it’s impossible to do more than that.
“The goal for everyone is still to reach Milan.”
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.
Mitchelton-Scott general manager Brent Copeland said the team’s positives came back after a third round of tests in three days.
“As a social responsibility to our riders and staff, the peloton and the race organization we have made the clear decision to withdraw,” Copeland said. “Thankfully those impacted remain asymptomatic or with mild symptoms. … We are now focused on safely transporting them to areas where they are most comfortable to conduct a period of quarantine.”
Kruijswijk stood 11th overall, 1 minute, 24 seconds behind race leader Joao 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…
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