The Vuelta a España ran its full course from the Basque Country to Madrid without a single confirmed case of coronavirus among the race bubble, but the event was not totally COVID-free as an outbreak has been uncovered among police officers.
According to Spanish news agency EFE, 45 members of Spain's national police force, the Guardia Civil, who were tasked with enforcing road closures and ensuring public safety, tested positive following the final stage on Sunday.
A total of 150 officers who were working on the Vuelta were tested in Madrid on Sunday evening, with the results returned on Tuesday. In the meantime, they had all returned to their various home towns without knowing their results.
The union for Guardia Civil employees, Jucil, issued a statement saying the situation was "a breach of the guidelines set out by the health authorities" and calling for stronger protocols to protect officers.
"This error cannot happen again. We’re aware that these situations can occur in such a serious pandemic as the one we’re in, but the leadership of the Guardia Civil must - with stronger resolve from now on - be diligent and set out more efficient prevention protocols," read the statement.
"We’ll keep a close eye on the condition of our colleagues who now have to go through quarantine and the disruption to their personal lives that goes with it. We hope the colleagues affected can count on adequate health cover and that they can soon resume their duties."
EFE has reported that no serious symptoms have been highlighted among the 45 officers, but symptoms typically manifest themselves a couple of days after exposure and can take two weeks to emerge.
The outbreak is a slight dampener on the celebratory tone struck on Monday by the UCI, which issued a press release on the success of the rescheduled 2020 season, and by the Vuelta organisers, with race director Javier Guillén talking to the Spanish press about pulling off an 18-stage Vuelta in October and November.
"First of all, it's a great satisfaction and relief," he said. "There's also a feeling that, if things are done well from a health point of view, a lot of projects can come off," Guillén told AS.
"I believe the bubbles showed us that measures like wearing a mask, keeping distance, cutting down on social contacts... they work. The peloton bubble at the Vuelta followed that dynamic and sent a very positive message and example to society."
As Features Editor, Patrick is responsible for Cyclingnews' long-form and in-depth output. Patrick joined Cyclingnews in 2015 as a staff writer after a work experience stint that included making tea and being sent to the Tour de Langkawi. Prior to that, he studied French and Spanish at university and went on to train as a journalist. Rides his bike to work but more comfortable on a football pitch.
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