Covid returns to strike peloton ahead of Giro

Soudal – Quick Step’s Belgian rider Remco Evenepoel cycles on stage during the opening ceremony and team presentation in Pescara, on May 4, 2023, two days before the departure of the Giro d’Italia 2023 cycling race. – The Giro d’Italia 2023 cycling race’s first stage will depart from Fossacesia Marina on May 6, and finish in Rome on May 28. (Photo by Luca Bettini / AFP)

By Jacques KLOPP
Agence France-Presse

PARIS, France (AFP) — Two days before the start of the Giro d’Italia, Covid-19 has returned to haunt the peloton, causing several riders to withdraw after testing positive, including three from the Jumbo-Visma team of Primoz Roglic.

On Thursday, Jumbo-Visma announced a third positive case with Jos van Emden being forced to step down.

The Dutchman was one of the two riders, along with Rohan Dennis, who had been called up 24 hours earlier to replace Robert Gesink and Tobias Foss, who were had been hit by the virus.

Van Emden will be replaced in turn by Sam Oomen but it is another blow for Roglic, one of the race favorites.

“It’s obviously not ideal but we’re going to deal with it and we’re going to find solutions,” said the Slovenian who has won three stages on the Giro but never the general classification, his best performance a third place finish in 2019.

“We’ll do our best to stay healthy and make it to the end of these three weeks. We need a bit of luck too,” he added.

The Bahrain team also announced on Thursday the withdrawal of one of its leaders, Swiss rider Gino Mader who was also ruled out of the last Tour de France because of Covid.

Another of the race favorites Remco Evenepoel said it was “always scary to see several riders sidelined because of an illness, especially Covid-19”.

“I think we’re going to do what we did in the last Vuelta,” the Belgian added. “Wear masks, be a little more careful, wash our hands more often to prevent the virus from spreading.”

A spokesman for the organizers, however, told AFP that there is “no special protocol for the Giro at the moment”.

Britain’s Geraint Thomas, winner of the Tour de France in 2018 and one of the outsiders in this Giro, was unperturbed by the new cases.

“I’m not particularly worried,” said the Welshman who will lead the Ineos challenge.

“It’s been like this for a few years now. In the team, we’re super careful but we can’t control everything. That’s how it is, that’s life.”

© Agence France-Presse