Further cases of COVID-19 have emerged at the Tour de Suisse and the Tour of Slovenia, as the days countdown to the start of the Tour de France.
UAE Team Emirates (opens in new tab)first withdrew two riders from each race and then, after another positive COVID-19 test within the Tour de Suisse team, removed the whole squad from that event. EF Education-EasyPost (opens in new tab) announced that Stefan Bissegger, Rigoberto Urán, Hugh Carthy, and Alberto Bettiol at the Tour de Suisse (opens in new tab) tested positive.
Soon after announcements by UAE Team Emirates and EF, Bora-Hansgrohe also revealed that race leader Aleksandr Vlasov and Anton Palzer would not continue in the Tour de Suisse after testing positive for COVID-19 in routine testing.
Still that was not the end of the withdrawals as Bahrain Victorious and Alpecin-Fenix also quit the Tour de Suisse before the start of stage 6.
Bahrain Victorious revealed a rider had tested positive on Friday morning and the two riders who had abandoned the race ahead of stage 5 with gastrointestinal issues had subsequently also returned positive COVID-19 tests. Alpecin-Fenix said they had two team members return positive COVID-19 tests and they all pulled out.
“Leaving the race is considered the most sensible decision by the team management and medical staff. This decision was taken in consultation with the management of the Tour de Suisse,” Alpecin-Fenix said.
Israel-Premier Tech said that Sebastian Berwick had also tested positive for COVID-19 and is out of the Tour de Suisse, with roommate Reto Hollenstein also removed after being deemed a close contact.
Tom PIdcock was another high-profile case, following Ineos Grenadiers teammate Adam Yates, who exited on Thursday. Louis Vervaeke (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) was another confirmed COVID case, with Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo), Alex Aranburu (Movistar), and Simone Petilli (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) taking the total of non-starters on Friday to 30.
COVID comes back ahead of Tour de France
On Thursday, as well as Yates, the whole Jumbo-Visma team withdrew from the Tour de Suisse after four members of the team tested positive. So did Søren Kragh Andersen, Casper Pedersen, and Cees Bol of Team DSM.
Human Powered Health also announced that the US national champion Joey Rosskopf had tested positive and was out of the race.
With few COVID-19 restrictions in European countries and the protection against infection waning, case numbers are increasing across Europe despite the warm summer weather helping reduce case numbers in the past two years.
There are now growing concerns about the Tour de France which starts in Copenhagen on Friday July 1. Bissegger, Urán and Bettiol were all due to ride the Tour de France.
Team manager Jonathan Vaughters revealed early on Friday morning that the four EF Education-EasyPost riders at the Tour de Suisse that had tested positive have been sent home.
No staff tested positive and so the US-registered WorldTour team have given Neilson Powless and Jonas Rutsch the option of staying in the race for the final three stages. The team will continue to test for COVID-19 twice daily.
UAE Team Emirates were hit by two cases of COVID-19 in 24-hours. Marc Hirschi tested positive at the Tour de Suisse and Mikkel Bjerg at the Tour of Slovenia, where he was riding in support of team leader Tadej Pogačar. Both Hirschi and Bjerg were initially withdrawn from competition.
Their teammates and staff at both races returned negative tests but Joel Suter (roommate of Hirschi) and Vegard Stake Laengen (roommate of Bjerg) were removed from racing as a precautionary measure. However, then Diego Ulissi at the Tour de Suisse also tested positive for COVID-19 and the whole team was withdrawn from that event.
"For team safety reason and the wider cycling community the team has decided to withdraw from the race," said UAE Team Emirates in a statement.
Riders withdrawn from Tour de Suisse stage 6
- Stefano Oldani (Alpecin-Fenix)
- Jimmy Janssens (Alpecin-Fenix)
- Silvan Dillier (Alpecin-Fenix)
- Xandro Meurisse (Alpecin-Fenix)
- Sjoerd Bax (Alpecin-Fenix)
- Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates)
- Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates)
- Marc Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates)
- Alessandro Covi (UAE Team Emirates)
- Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates)
- Joel Suter (UAE Team Emirates)
- Matteo Trentin (UAE Team Emirates)
- Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe)
- Anton Palzer (Bora-Hansgrohe)
- Reto Hollenstein (Israel-Premier Tech)
- Sebastian Berwick (Israel-Premier Tech)
- Filip Maciejuk (Bahrain Victorious)
- Edoardo Zambanini (Bahrain Victorious)
- Johan Price-Pejtersen (Bahrain Victorious)
- Stephen Williams (Bahrain Victorious)
- Yukiya Arashiro (Bahrain Victorious)
- Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-EasyPost)
- Rigoberto Urán (EF Education-EasyPost)
- Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost)
- Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost)
- Louis Vervaeke (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl)
- Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers)
- Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Sgafredo)
- Simone Petilli (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert)
- Alex Araburu (Movistar)
Riders withdrawn from Tour of Slovenia stage 3
- Mikkel Bjerg (UAE Team Emirates)
- Vegard Stake Laengen (UAE Team Emirates)
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.