Astana replaces two Giro d'Italia riders after contact with COVID-19-infected teammate

Zhandos Bizhigitov leads the Astana train
Zhandos Bizhigitov leads Astana train (Image credit: Getty Images)

Astana have been forced to call up two replacements for their Giro d'Italia roster after two riders on the roster for the Grande Partenza in Sicily -  Yuriy Natarov and Vadim Pronskiy - were in close contact with teammate Zhandos Bizhigitov, who tested positive for the coronavirus and is symptomatic with COVID-19.

Natarov and Pronskiy were part of Kazakhstan's team for the UCI World Championships with Bizhigitov, who started the elite men's road race but did not finish. Pronskiy and Natarov finished 49th and 74th, respectively.

Another Astana rider, Alexey Lutsenko, also tested positive for COVID-19 before Worlds, and has been in isolation. Lutsenko is asymptomatic and awaiting a second test to confirm the virus.

Natarov and Pronskiy will be replaced by Jonas Gregaard Wilsly and Rodrigo Contreras. Both riders were in Belgium for La Flèche Wallonne - Gregaard did not start while Contreras finished the race in 139th place.

"It's sad that we had to withdraw Yuriy Natarov and Vadim Pronskiy, as they all would've made their debut in the Giro d'Italia, but the protocol is very strict," Astana General Manager Alexandr Vinokurov said in the team's press release. 

"Even while being asymptomatic, they could've spread the virus among their colleagues as they were in close contact with Zhandos Bizhigitov. We hope Zhandos Bizhigitov gets well soon and that all the other riders will test negative in the upcoming period to make sure they can participate in upcoming races."

The Giro d'Italia starts on Saturday in Sicily after the race was rescheduled from its normal May time slot because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The UCI shuttered all events in mid-March and, as cases dropped off, racing resumed in July. However, a resurgence in cases in the Netherlands has led government officials to increase restrictions once again, leading to the cancellation of the Amstel Gold Race and forcing changes to the BinckBank Tour.

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