The Dutch Jumbo-Visma team have taken the decision to leave the Giro d'Italia ahead of stage 10. The news comes after it was confirmed that their team leader Steven Kruijswijk had tested positive for COVID-19 after a routine rest day test.
Kruijswijk came into the Giro as a genuine contender for the title and sat in 11th place in the overall standings, but on Tuesday the race organisers confirmed that Kruijswijk, Michael Mattthews (Team Sunweb), four staff members from Mitchelton-Scott and one staff member each from Ineos Grenadiers and AG2R La Mondiale had all returned positive tests for the virus.
Jumbo-Visma confirmed the news of their exit from the race less than 30 minutes before the start of stage 10 on Tuesday. They failed to appear at the start line for the official sign-on process before they made an official statement on the situation.
The news follows the decision of Mitchelton-Scott to also leave the race after four of their staff tested positive. The Australian team had already lost Simon Yates after he tested positive during the first week of the race.
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Race organiser RCS Sport carried out a total of 571 tests on the riders and team staff at the Giro d’Italia. The testing was split across Sunday evening and Monday morning, with all the RT-PCR swab tests then sent to Milan for testing in a private laboratory. Further tests are due to be done on race staff on Wednesday.
"For Steven the most important thing is his health. That’s his main priority now. He had terrible luck missing the Tour de France and now this, but what happened today is a global problem. In Holland it’s getting worse and worse and this is 2020. It’s a big disappointment but it can happen to cyclists," team director Merijn Zeeman told Cyclingnews.
"We did everything that we could to protect Steven and the rest of the team at the Giro but this can still happen. It’s a very hard situation but a lot of people are experiencing this. He is asymptomatic but he has to recover and his family needs to stay healthy. I’ve spoken to him on the phone and he’s in isolation. It’s so surreal but this is the world now and like I said the most important thing is his health and the health of his family."
At the start of stage 10, team director Addy Engels spoke to the media, including Cyclingnews, and explained the reason behind Jumbo-Visma's decision.
"In our opinion, this is the most responsible decision with one positive case in the team, being Stevie. We’ve all been close to him and, looking at what happened with Mitchelton, with one case and now another four, we’ve decided to take the most responsible decision as we look to the health of our riders and staff," Engels told the press.
"Until now, it’s been a rollercoaster and that’s why his decision has been made. The decision was made together with the management. We had a call and we took everything into account: the opinions of riders and staff and of course the management. To withdraw from a race is a big thing, especially like this, but in our opinion it’s in the interests of the race to do it like this.
"Riders have been in touch with Stevie and if they continue for another week then it could be another couple of positives. This is the safest way for us, for the team and the continuation of the Giro."
Jumbo-Visma’s departure from the race leaves question marks over their participation in the Vuelta a España, which is scheduled to start next week. The team are set to race with both Primoz Roglic and Tom Dumoulin in their line-up but Engels would not be drawn on other races and rosters.
"I don’t know. I can’t look into the future. To say about that is speculation," he said. "For the Vuelta, it’s impossible for me to say. We made the best decision here and it was taken just minutes ago. The riders took this decision in a good way here."
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