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Riders question COVID-19 testing protocol at Vuelta a España

COLLU FANCUAYA SPAIN AUGUST 27 Jos Herrada Lopez of Spain and Team Cofidis during the 77th Tour of Spain 2022 Stage 8 a 1534km stage from Pola de Laviana to Collu Fancuaya 1084m LaVuelta22 WorldTour on August 27 2022 in Collu Fancuaya Spain Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images
José Herrada (Cofidis) had to leave the race ahead of stage 10 after testing positive for COVID-19 (Image credit: Tim de WaeleGetty Images)

Several riders who have been forced to leave the Vuelta a España following positive COVID-19 tests at the race have questioned the testing protocol employed at the race.

Friday morning brought the news that Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) would continue in the race despite testing positive after analysis of his PCR test showed his viral load – and contagiousness – was low enough for him to race on.

The testing protocol in place at the Vuelta was put in place by the UCI ahead of the Tour de France, with antigen testing ahead of the start and on the rest days, recommendations that teams conduct internal testing, and a panel of doctors in place to analyse follow-up PCR tests after any positive antigen tests.

Like Ayuso, Bob Jungels was allowed to start the Tour after a positive test before the Grand Depart. The Luxembourger's sample also indicated a viral load low enough that he wouldn't pose a risk to fellow riders and team staff.

At the Vuelta, 23 riders have so far been sent home following positive tests, while three men were ruled out before the start of the race, too. Two of those riders, José Herrada (Cofidis) and Manuel Peñalver (Burgos-BH), have spoke out on the testing protocol on Friday.

"Some go home without knowing their viral load," Herrada, who left the race ahead of the stage 10 time trial, tweeted. "Others race on knowing they are positive while waiting for viral load results. Let the circus go on.

"And no, I'm not talking about Ayuso, as someone has already said. Mostly because I don't know his case in-depth enough to talk about it."

Peñalver was a late scratch from the Vuelta start list, leaving his team with seven starters. He replied to Herrada relating his own experience with testing at the race, though later deleted his tweet.

"I had a simple positive antigen and I was asymptomatic," he wrote. "And they sent me home a few hours before the start of the race – without being able to do PCR and look at viral load. 48 hours later I was negative at home."

At the start of stage 13, 23 riders had abandoned the Vuelta a España following positive COVID-19 tests, including GC contenders Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco) and Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers), and Jumbo-Visma super-domestique Sepp Kuss.

Manuel Peñalver Twitter, September 2, 2022

(Image credit: Manuel Peñalver/Twitter)

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