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Movistar deny suggesting Israel Start-Up Nation quit Vuelta a Burgos over coronavirus scare

Israel Start-Up Nation’s Rick Zabel undergoes a temperature check ahead of the opening stage of the 2020 Vuelta a Burgos
(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Movistar sports director Pablo Lastras has flatly denied that his team suggested to Israel Start-Up Nation that they quit the Vuelta a Burgos after pulling two of their initial starters as a COVID-19 precaution.

The two Israel Start-Up Nation riders in question, Alex Dowsett and Itamar Einhorn, had had contact with a third teammate, Omer Goldstein, who returned a positive test for COVID-19 earlier this week. The two subsequently tested negative. 

Lastras, meanwhile, has firmly denied a report in the Belgian press on Wednesday that stated Movistar had suggested to Israel Start-Up Nation that their entire team quit as a precaution.

“I roundly, categorically deny it,” Lastras said on Wednesday evening. “Neither Movistar nor any other team have made any kind of comment to that effect. It’s a false rumour.”

Lastras pointed out that one of Movistar’s other sports directors – Txente García Acosta – forms part of the race committee handling prevention and strategy for COVID-19. He also suggested that the extensive amount of backroom work that teams carry out “in order to race safely” should be given more coverage in the media.

“We are all subject to the norms of each government, not just nationally, but in the countries where we are going to compete as well,” he pointed out.

Lastras also looked ahead to Thursday’s critical summit finish stage at Picón Blanco, observing that on such an exposed climb, the wind “would be a key factor. If it’s a headwind or a crosswind, things will change notably.”

“It’s a key test,” Lastras said. 

“If you’re not in good shape, then you need to lose as little time as possible so you can bounce back on Saturday at the Lagunas de Neila. It’s going to be an interesting day.”

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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.