Trek-Segafredo will be withdrawing its men’s squad from Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem after positive COVID-19 tests, leaving one of the race favourites, Mads Pedersen, unable to line up to try and repeat his 2020 victory.
Trek-Segafredo is far from alone in having to pull out of an event because of positive tests, with a number of withdrawals from recent races. Alpecin-Fenix did not start the Volta a Catalunya while Spanish outfit Equipo Kern Pharma left en masse after two of their team members tested positive for COVID-19 following stage 4. Bora-Hansgrohe were also stopped from riding the E3 Saxo Bank Classic in Belgium after Britain's Matt Walls tested positive in final pre-race testing.
Trek-Segafredo said testing had revealed two positive results.
“One team member tested positive for Coronavirus on Friday 26th,” said the team in a statement. “They were then put into isolation along with the other team members who had been in close contact with them. The entire team underwent an extra PCR test which revealed a positive result for one of the isolated members.
“The Team has decided to withdraw from Gent-Wevelgem whilst we do further testing before we can safely return to competition."
The men’s team that had been expected to line up alongside Pedersen also included Edward Theuns, Quinn Simmons, Ryan Mullen and Milan-San Remo winner Jasper Stuyven.
"Absolutely gutted to not [be] taking the start tomorrow! Turn the page and hope for the best for the upcoming races," said Stuyven on Twitter.
The women’s squad which includes Lizzie Deignan among its many cards to play, will still be contesting the event.
“Our women’s team, including staff, is unaffected by this as they have remained separated,” said Trek-Segafredo. “Therefore, they will still race Gent-Wevelgem.”
The race, which has returned to its traditional slot on the calendar after being held in October last year, is not accessible to spectators on climbs or on cobbled sectors as organisers have taken steps to minimise COVID-19 risks in the region.
The cobbled race is delicately balanced between the sprinters and the escapees but wind conditions look set to favour the attackers this year, with race director Hans De Clercq pointing to the south-westerly wind of 30kph forecast for Sunday that could cause the race to break up into echelons.
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