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Benoot out of Gent-Wevelgem after contact with COVID-19 positive Bakelants

SIENA ITALY AUGUST 01 Start Tiesj Benoot of Belgium and Team Sunweb during the Eroica 14th Strade Bianche 2020 Men a 184km race from Siena to SienaPiazza del Campo StradeBianche on August 01 2020 in Siena Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images
Tiesj Benoot of Belgium and Team Sunweb (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Tiesj Benoot will not join his Sunweb teammates on the start line of Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday after being confirmed as a close contact with Jan Bakelants (Circus-Wanty Gobert), who tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday.

The teams are supposed to be remaining in protective 'bubbles' during racing in order to prevent infections, however, both riders were in-person guests on Sporza's television show Extra Time Koers on Wednesday after racing in the Brabantse Pijl.

Sunweb made the announcement on Twitter on Saturday afternoon, saying "Tiesj is currently symptom free, feeling well and will go into quarantine before having PCR tests next week". 

Benoot responded, writing, "Extremely weird feeling to be not able to start tomorrow, feeling perfectly healthy and ready to race. But if this is the sacrifice we have to make, I think it's the only right one. Good luck to my teammates tomorrow!"

Bakelants tested negative before Brabantse Pijl but began showing symptoms on Friday after returning home. He tested positive for COVID-19 and has been quarantined but the rest of his team are preparing to race in Gent-Wevelgem.

The coronavirus pandemic first infiltrated professional cycling in February when several riders and staff at the UAE Tour tested positive for the virus. Fernando Gaviria and Max Richeze (UAE Team Emirates) were among those who were quarantined until their systems cleared the virus.

Strict measures of closing down sporting events including pro cycling, schools, restaurants, bars and theaters and enforcing stay-at-home laws across Europe got the spread of the virus under enough control for the road season to resume in July.

However, with the reopening of many countries and the international travel resuming, the virus case numbers have risen dramatically over the past month.

While the Tour de France finished with only race director Christian Prudhomme contracting the virus.

One rider from Astana fell ill with COVID-19 after racing at the UCI Road World Championships in Imola, leading to the team having to pull two of its riders from the Giro d'Italia.

The Giro d'Italia had its first case on Saturday when Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) began showing symptoms and tested positive for COVID-19.

Rising case counts in Northern France and the Netherlands led to the cancellation of Paris-Roubaix and the Amstel Gold Race, which was due to take place today.

Giro d'Italia director Mauro Vegni expressed concerns about his race, saying "above all, the situation worries me because it means that the level of contagion is rising, and we still have two weeks of the Giro to go."