The director of the Giro d’Italia, Mauro Vegni, has reiterated that he wants the race to make it to the finish in Milan on October 25, despite two riders and six team staff members testing positive for COVID-19 on the first rest day.
Four staff members from Mitchelton-Scott and one staff member each from Ineos Grenadiers and AG2R La Mondiale also returned positive tests for the virus. Mitchelton-Scott also decided to withdraw from the Giro d’Italia after Simon Yates tested positive during the first week of the race.
Vegni explained that all the teams with positive COVID-19 cases had undergone rapid secondary testing before the start of Tuesday's stage to Tortoreto and would face more tests on Thursday to try to identify further cases before the second round of swab tests on Monday’s second rest day.
Spectators are now obliged to wear a face mask outdoors in Italy and maintain social distancing, with the Italian government due to tighten rules to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus after new daily positive cases rose to more than 4,000 per day.
There are still 12 stages to race in this year’s Giro d’Italia, with some speculating that the race is on a knife-edge. But Vegni appeared determined to try to make it all the way to the finish in Milan on Sunday, October 25.
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"We absolutely want the Giro d’Italia to make it to Milan," he told Italian television RAI before the start of stage 10 to Tortoreto.
"I’d say at any price, excluding any major or medical problems. We knew holding the Giro in October was problematic, we’re doing all we can to make it to Milan with all the doubts and challenges."
Vegni had endured a sleepless night after the positive cases emerged late on Monday.
RCS Sport carried out 571 PCR swab tests on Sunday evening and Monday morning, with the swabs transported to Milan for testing at a private laboratory. RCS Sport has also secured several thousand rapid saliva tests for other tests between the rest days.
"We’ve done 1,500 tests since the start in Palermo, which means that going beyond the protocol. When we suspect something, we ask the teams to do (rapid) tests," Vegni explained, admitting that he is concerned other cases could emerge in the days to come.
"The tests shows the situation today. It doesn't guarantee say that the virus won’t explode," he said.
"The team who have had problems - Sunweb, Jumbo, Ineos and AG2R - were tested again today and will be tested again on Thursday to ensure that a person inside the team doesn’t infect them. We can’t do much more."
Vegni said he agreed with Mitchelton-Scott’s decision to withdraw from the Giro d’Italia after five cases emerged in their team and staff in Italy.
"We’re really sorry to lose a team like Mitchelton-Scott but we’ve spoken to them and together we think it's the best decision both ethically and medically," he said.
"With so many people in a team and not knowing how many other cases we could discover going forward, we decided together that it was better if they left the race."
There were significant crowds at the start in Lanciano on Tuesday and Vegni called on the spectators and everyone at the Giro d’Italia to do everything possible to ensure the race continues.
"We’ll carry on educating the public and everyone in the race caravan. We’ve got to be the first to defend ourselves against the virus," he said.
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