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No COVID-19 positives after Vuelta a España rest day tests

SABIANIGO SPAIN OCTOBER 24 Start Richard Carapaz of Ecuador and Team INEOS Grenadiers Polka Dot Mountain Jersey Primoz Roglic of Slovenia and Team Jumbo Visma Red Leader Jersey Mask Covid safety measures during the 75th Tour of Spain 2020 Stage 5 a 1844km Huesca to Sabinigo 835m lavuelta LaVuelta20 La Vuelta on October 24 2020 in Sabinigo Spain Photo by Justin SetterfieldGetty Images
(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The UCI and Vuelta a España organisers Unipublic have announced that the round of testing carried out on the race's first rest day returned no positive results.

684 COVID-19 tests were carried out on Monday in Vitoria-Gasteiz, with the entire race 'bubble' undergoing testing. All tests returned negative results, a first for a Grand Tour during the rounds of testing at the first rest day.

The latest round of testing follows two rounds before the start of the race in Irún. Cofidis rider Jesús Herrada was forced to miss the Vuelta after testing positive the week before the race, while a member of staff from Team Sunweb and Bahrain McLaren left the race after testing positive in the final pre-race checks.

"In accordance with La Vuelta 20’s health protocol, developed in the framework of the Union Cycliste Internationale’s (UCI) rules for the return of the road cycling season in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, the entire 'race bubble' was tested during the first rest day," read a statement from the UCI.

"After having been tested preceding the official start in Irun as well as upon their arrival on La Vuelta as a part of the 'race bubble', riders and staff involved in the race were tested a third time during the first rest day. The objective of the screening campaign is to guarantee the health of the race for the riders and accredited personnel in the face of the novel coronavirus.

"Overall, each of the 684 tests carried out returned negative results.

"The organisers of La Vuelta and the UCI would like to thank all of the teams and riders for their collaboration and for the vigilance that they have shown and will continue to show up until the finish in Madrid."

The first rest day at the Tour de France saw positive tests from staff members of Cofidis, AG2R La Mondiale, Ineos Grenadiers and Mitchelton-Scott, while at the Giro d'Italia there were eight positive tests, including Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma), Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) and Mitchelton-Scott recorded four positive tests. Testing at the second rest day of both races returned only negative results.

In addition to the three positive tests before the race start, the Vuelta has also been affected by COVID-19 during the race. 

Spectators have been banned from attending major climbs at the race, including the Alto de Arrate on stage 1 and the Angliru on stage 12, while Sunday's stage 6 was re-routed to finish atop Aramón Formigal after French authorities refused the race entry to race over the Col de Portalet, Col d'Aubisque and Col du Tourmalet.

In Spain, as in many other European countries, COVID-19 continue to rise as a second wave of the virus spreads. Last week, the country became the first in western Europe to pass one million cases, with daily cases passing 20,000 mark for the first time.

On Sunday, the Spanish government declared a six-month state of emergency, ordering a 11pm to 6am curfew across the nation, with regional governments permitted to instate full or partial lockdowns and limit public gatherings. However, at least for now, race director Javier Guillén is hopeful the race can continue and reach Madrid.  

The Vuelta will race west across northern Spain in the coming 10 days, passing through the hard-hit regions Basque Country and La Rioja as well as Asturias and Galicia in the north-west, two regions which have a relatively low case incidence. The final stage is set to finish in Madrid, where one in 23 people have tested positive at some point during the pandemic.