After learning of the result of the test, which was taken ahead of stage 3, the Belgian team decided not to take to the start of stage 4 on Wednesday morning.
"Our team withdraws from Tour de Suisse following a positive COVID-test of a team member to limit the risk of contagion inside the team but also for the race bubble," read a statement from the team.
"All pre-race COVID-19 tests of all team members were negative, but an additional test performed on Tuesday morning revealed a staff member is positive despite of not showing any symptom. In agreement with the race organiser and the UCI, Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux will not start in Stage 4 of Tour de Suisse."
Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert came to the Tour de Suisse led by Jan Hirt, but the Czech climber was already out of general classification contention, sitting fourth bottom after finishing near the back on all three stages.
The team’s best-placed rider was Lorenzo Rota in 26th, 1:17 down on race leader Mathieu van der Poel. The squad was rounded out by Simone Petilli, Georg Zimmerman, Baptiste Planckaert, Pieter Vanspeybrouck, and Maurits Lammertink.
“The decision to withdraw was not easy to take, but we want to be cautious and protect the race bubble after one team member tested positive yesterday even if the rest of the group were all negative,” said team director Jean-François Bourlart.
“Our priority is riders’ and staff members’ health so we decided to withdraw from Tour de Suisse in consultation with the race organiser. We will keep monitoring the team’s health and focus on the next goals.”
The team’s exit is the first COVID-related withdrawal from a major race since the spring, when Alpecin-Fenix did not start the Volta a Catalunya, UAE Team Emirates were unable to ride La FLèche Wallonne, and Bora-Hansgrohe and Trek-Segafredo both missed some of the cobbled Classics.
More recently, Israel Start-Up Nation scrapped five races – Grosser Preis des Kantons Aargau, Dwars door het Hageland, Elfstedenronde, Belgium Tour, and Adriatica Ionica – from their June calendar after three COVID cases among their staff.
The Tour de Suisse continues on Wednesday with a fourth stage that features a late climb, before the terrain becomes increasingly mountainous towards the end of the week.
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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.
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