ROME – The Giro d’Italia was thrown into chaos on Tuesday when two full teams, another all-time contender and another 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 the tenth stage.
Four Mitchelton-Scott staff members tested positive. This came after Mitchelton-Scott team leader Simon Yates retired before Saturday’s eighth stage after also contracting COVID-19.
Jumbo-Visma’s Dutch contender Steven Kruijswijk and Team Sunweb driver Michael Matthews also tested positive with 571 exams for all drivers and staff members to coincide with Monday̵
Then Jumbo-Visma announced a few minutes before the start of the stage that he would also withdraw the rest of his team. However, the stage began with the remaining 20 teams and the remaining 145 runners.
“We have all been in contact with [Kruijswijk] in recent days, ” Addy Engels, sports director of Jumbo-Visma, told RAI state TV. “So the risk of passing it on to someone else has been there for several days. We will not continue to take the risk.”
In addition, a staff member from the Ineos Grenadiers team and a staff member from AG2R-La Mondiale returned positive and were placed in solitary confinement.
Giro director Mauro Vegni has suggested that the race will not have a winner unless it ends as planned in Milan on 25 October. The race had already been rescheduled from the usual May slot due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“This morning all the teams with positive cases received new rapid tests and we will do it again tomorrow – said Vegni -. We have done almost 1,500 tests and frankly it is impossible to do more.
The goal for everyone is still to reach Milan. ”
Italy hovers around 5,000 new coronavirus cases a day, prompting the government to consider further restrictions after making outdoor masks mandatory last week.
The tenth stage of the Giro was run in the central Abruzzo region, on a 177 kilometer (110 mile) stretch from Lanciano to Tortoreto.
Mitchelton-Scott general manager Brent Copeland said the team’s positives returned after a third round of testing in three days.
“As a social responsibility to our riders and our staff, the group and the organization of the race, we have made a clear decision to retire,” Copeland said. “Fortunately, those affected remain asymptomatic or with mild symptoms. … Now we are focusing on safely transporting them to the areas where they are most comfortable to conduct a quarantine period.”
Kruijswijk was 11th overall, 1 minute and 24 seconds behind race leader Joao Almeida. He had three top 10 finishes in his career at the Giro.
“Within the team we take a lot of measures to avoid contamination. And I feel fit. I can’t believe I understand that. It is a great disappointment to receive this news,” said Kruijswijk. “It’s a shame to have to leave the Giro like this.”
Matthews was not in general contention – he was almost an hour behind Almeida – but he is a gritty rider and a strong sprinter aiming for stage wins. The Australian driver won a total of eight stages in the three Grand Tours: the Giro (two), the Tour de France (three) and the Spanish Vuelta (three).
Sunweb said Matthews “is currently asymptomatic, feels healthy and after receiving the results early this morning, he is now in quarantine.” The team added that all other drivers and staff members returned negative tests.
Matthews had three top five finishes in this year’s race, including a second place in Stage 6 behind Arnaud Demare.
“Disappointed that this is the way the Giro ends for me after a fantastic first week with the team,” Matthews tweeted. “For now, I will start my isolation and monitor things closely. Hoping to fully recover and get back to racing soon.”