Giro d'Italia resumes after Belgian Evenepoel pulls out with Covid

Belgian cyclist Remco Evenepoel during the Giro

 BRUSSELS – The Tour of Italy was resuming Tuesday after a rest day during which the standings leader, Belgian cyclist Remco Evenepoel, pulled out of the race after testing positive for Covid 19 following his winning Sunday’s 9th stage of the gruelling contest.

 The 10th stage Tuesday afternoon was taking place over 196 km from Scandiano to the seaside resort of Viareggio in Tuscany.

 British cyclist Geraint Thomas from the INEOS Grenadiers team now heads the general Giro classification. Slovene Primož Roglič, who lost two key team mates because of positive COVID-19 tests just before the kick-off, was placed number two in the standings at barely two seconds from Thomas.

 Tao Geoghegan Hart, Thomas’ fellow team mate and countryman, is number three at five seconds. Also within less than a minute from the leader of the general classification was UAE Team Emirates’ João Almeida.

 In a Giro whose arduous third week likely will be decisive, other top contenders include two riders from the Bora-Hansgrohe team, Alexander Vlasov and Lennard Kämna, as well as Italian rider Damiano Caruso.

 The “Giro d’Italia” is an annual multiple-stage bicycle race. It is a hard and prestigious competition going back to 1909. Along with the “Tour the France” and the “Vuelta a España”, it is one of the three so-called Grand Tours of cycling.

 This year’s edition of the “Giro” features three fully-fledged time trials. Along with Slovenian cyclist Primož Roglič, Evenepoel, who is an expert in this discipline, was the overall favourite to win this Giro.

 Evenepoel, 23, was not the first contender to leave the race after a positive COVID-19 test. Italian cyclist Filippo Ganna, also a time trial specialist, had already left the race after testing positive for COVID-19. Being three weeks on the road with fellow team members and logistics staff, staying in the same hotels and giving interviews before and/or after stage races, makes the participants of a Grand Tour vulnerable to a highly contaminating virus.

 Unlike in previous editions of the Giro, the organisation this year does not organise mandatory COVID19 tests. Participating teams no longer are obliged to organise COVID-19 tests and withdraw their athletes if they would test positive for COVID-19.

 Giro director Mauro Vegni in La Gazetta dello Sport explained that, following WHO’s statement on end of COVID-19 epidemic, his organisation had decided no longer to impose a COVID-19 protocol. He also announced that, following the recent developments, the organisation would sharpen certain measures. It will again be mandatory to wear a mask in all places where people are in contact with the race participants.