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Relief for Burgos bubble as UAE trio all test negative for coronavirus

Max Richeze and Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) at the start of stage 2 of the Vuelta a Burgos (Image credit: David Ramos/Getty Images)

The Vuelta a Burgos peloton can breathe a sigh of relief after the three UAE Team Emirates riders who were pulled from the race all tested negative for COVID-19 on Wednesday.

Juan Sebastián Molano, Cristian Muñoz, and Andrés Camilo Ardila were sent home by their team ahead of stage 2, after hearing someone they'd been in contact with on Saturday had been notified they had COVID-19 on Tuesday night.

The trio had cleared the UCI’s pre-race protocol, testing negative both six and three days ahead of the race, but were taken out and tested again during stage 2 on Wednesday.

“The tests undertaken today by three UAE Team Emirates riders, as a preventative measure for having been in contacted with someone who tested positive, have come back negative,” read a statement from the race organisers on Wednesday evening.

“Following the health protocols established by the organisation of the Vuelta a Burgos and the UCI, the riders did not take to the start of the stage this morning, and were immediately removed from the race bubble as a preventative measure, until it was known that the PCR tests they did were negative.”

The results will come as a relief to the race, riders, and teams, as a positive test for one of the three could have had far-reaching implications. It is still not clear what should happen if a positive case were to emerge in the so-called ‘peloton bubble’, with the UCI today updating its guidelines to say decisions over stopping a race would lie with the race organisers.

The Vuelta a Burgos, the first major international men’s race since March, has now had two coronavirus scares and five withdrawals after just two days of the event. Similar circumstances led Israel Start-Up Nation to withdraw Itamar Einhorn and Alex Dowsett ahead of the start of stage 1, with the pair also going on to test negative.

The issue has already caused tension, with some praising the decision to withdraw said riders as a precaution, and others feeling they should have gone further and withdrawn their entire squads.

Back in March, several riders and staff from UAE Team Emirates caught the virus, with Fernando Gaviria and Max Richeze spending weeks in quarantine and a team physio spending time in intensive care.

Gaviria was back to winning ways on stage 2 in Burgos though, seemingly not affectde by the absence of just under half the team's roster as he powered to a comprehensive sprint victory in Villadiego.

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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.