Giro d’Italia 2020 on the brink after two teams withdraw over coronavirus outbreak


The Giro d’Italia resumed on Tuesday despite a coronavirus outbreak at the race which has forced two teams to withdraw.

Australia’s Mitchelton-Scott pulled out Tuesday morning citing four fresh cases amongst their backroom staff, two days after lead rider Simon Yates withdrew having also contracted the virus.

The Dutch team Jumbo-Visma followed suit after their lead rider Steven Kruijswijk, who was 11th overall, also tested positive for Covid-19. “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 spite of growing concerns over rider safety, racing continued into the second week following Monday’s rest day with a flat stage 10 from Lanciano to Tortoreto. Yet there is now a major threat of the race being suspended should more positive tests be returned.

All teams have been subject to regular testing throughout the race so far. Over Sunday and Monday, 571 tests were performed and eight were positive, including two riders – Kruijswijk and Michael Matthews of Team Sunweb – and the four Mitchelton-Scott staff members. 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.

Only 20 teams and 145 riders now remain.

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 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).

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 of its other riders and staff members returned negative tests.

Matthews had three top-five finishes in this year’s race, including a second-place result 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 wrote on Twitter. “For now, I’ll begin my isolation and monitor things closely. Hoping to make a full recovery and get back racing soon.”

Additional reporting by PA

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