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Matthews twice tests negative for COVID-19 after Giro d'Italia exit

PLOUAY FRANCE AUGUST 25 Arrival Michael Matthews of Australia and Team Sunweb Celebration Soigneur during the 84th Bretagne Classic OuestFrance 2020 a 2478km race from Plouay to Plouay GrandPrixPlouay GPPlouay on August 25 2020 in Plouay France Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images
(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Michael Matthews has returned two negative test results for COVID-19 after testing positive for the virus on the first rest day of the Giro d’Italia, which he consequently withdrew from.

Matthews didn’t start stage 10 on Tuesday after Team Sunweb announced that he was one of eight people across five teams whom had tested positive for coronavirus on the rest day, sparking concern over whether the Grand Tour should push on to Milan.

A Team Sunweb spokesman on Friday morning confirmed to Cyclingnews that the Australian’s PCR test taken on the rest day on Monday was positive but that two tests administered thereafter were negative.

Matthews underwent a rapid retest on Tuesday morning in Italy where he returned a negative result. A PCR test taken on Wednesday was also negative.

The 30-year-old was said to be asymptomatic and feeling healthy when he exited the Giro and returned to his home in Monaco.

A Sunweb spokesman said the two negative results did not prove that Matthews’ rest day test at the Giro was a false positive.

"This is good news as Michael is also feeling good and still without symptoms. The first PCR test remains to be a reliable snapshot of that moment. The two negative tests since do not mean Monday's test was a proven false positive," the spokesman said.

"We need to continue to work in a disciplined way and test constantly, as is happening now with the team at the Giro."

The Sunweb team competing at the Giro are undergoing additional COVID-19 testing this week, the spokesman said, in addition to those being carried out by race organiser RCS Sport.

"RCS have made extra efforts and stepped up, adding extra tests for all teams. On top of that, our team are doing extra PCR tests for our riders and staff during this week to monitor the status of our bubble even closer, in the interests of the event, cycling and our fellow teams, as well as for the health of our riders and staff," he said.

Sunweb have followed strict protocols since racing resumed in August, dividing riders and team staff into distinct bubbles based on their race programmes, which they’ve operated within.

The team on Friday supported the continuation of the Giro, despite a call from at least one rival squad for it to stop at the end of the second week, in lieu of the positive tests recorded so far.

"These strict procedures are in place to ensure health, whilst at the same time allowing professional cycling to take place in these challenging times of COVID-19," the spokesman said.

"This is in the interest of all of pro cycling's stakeholders and the fans to show that professional cycling can still exist in this COVID-19 era."

Matthews was one of two riders, along with Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma), who tested positive for coronavirus on the rest day, as well as four staff members from Mitchelton-Scott and one each from AG2R-La Mondiale and Ineos Grenadiers.

Mitchelton-Scott, who days earlier sent Simon Yates home when he returned a positive test after stage seven, and Jumbo-Visma have both pulled out of the race.

Matthews also gave a personal update, indicating his season is over after leaving the Giro d'Italia. He will move to Mitchelton-Scott for 2021.