Despite Michael Matthews’ positive test for COVID-19 during rest day controls at the Giro d’Italia, Team Sunweb opted not to join Jumbo-Visma in leaving the race altogether, stating that they are “following the rules” agreed upon with the UCI and RCS Sport beforehand.
Jumbo-Visma withdrew from the Giro on Tuesday morning after Steven Kruijswijk tested positive for coronavirus, while Mitchelton-Scott also pulled out after four staff members returned positive tests. Mitchelton-Scott rider Simon Yates had previously left the Giro on Saturday after contracting COVID-19.
Individual staff members at Ineos Grenadiers and AG2R La Mondiale were also confirmed as positive for COVID-19 during the round of mandatory PCR tests carried out on Sunday evening and Monday morning. Both teams, like Sunweb, have opted to stay in the Giro d'Italia pending repeated tests on their riders and staff on the race.
Sunweb withdrew Tiesj Benoot from Gent-Wevelgem at the weekend due to his close contact with Jan Bakelants (Circus-Wanty Gobert), who went on to test positive for COVID-19. The pair had appeared together on Belgian television show Extra Time Koers on Wednesday evening after racing at Brabantse Pijl.
Mauro Vegni: We absolutely want the Giro d'Italia to make it to Milan
Mitchelton-Scott pull out of Giro d'Italia after four positive COVID-19 cases
Jumbo-Visma pull out of Giro d'Italia to protect riders and staff after COVID-19 outbreak
Kelderman: I didn't have the pink jersey in mind today at the Giro d'Italia
Despite that precedent, Sunweb opted not to pull their entire team out of the Giro in the wake of Matthews' positive test. Wilco Kelderman currently lies second overall, 34 seconds behind maglia rosa João Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep), while Jai Hindley is 7th at 1:19.
"Basically, we're just following the rules we agreed upon with the UCI and with the organisation before we came, the protocol we follow in stage races. That's basically the decision that we made," Sunweb directeur sportif Luke Roberts said in Tortoreto Lido after stage 10.
Asked if Sunweb had considered following the lead of Jumbo-Visma and leaving the race after one of their riders had tested positive for COVID-19, Roberts said: "No, I think we're confident in the way we're working inside our bubble, with the distancing. We isolated Michael and the team will be regularly tested. We'll just follow the protocols agreed upon."
Kelderman and Hindley both finished in a reduced maglia rosa group at the end of a breathless stage 10 that saw some of the general classification go on the offensive over the muri near the finish at Tortoreto Lido. Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates), second on the stage, was among those who felt that riders were perhaps racing more aggressively given the growing doubts over whether this Giro would run its full course to Milan.
Roberts, however, insisted that Kelderman and Sunweb were racing under the assumption that the Giro will continue as planned towards its mountainous denouement in the third week.
"I think we have our eyes on the last week," Roberts said. "There are probably opportunities where we could have gone after the leader's jersey, but in the big picture, we're aiming to go to Milan. We're aiming to go there to win it. We don't want to change our focus off that, and we'll keep working here as we'd planned.
"We'll miss Michael, because he could have gone for stage wins, and he's also a strong rider we could use to work for the GC as well. Missing a rider is not ideal, but we'll just carry on and keep our focus on what we can control."
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.