Two AG2R Citroën riders abandon the Vuelta a España after positive COVID-19 tests

BILBAO SPAIN AUGUST 24 Jaakko Hnninen of Finland and AG2R Citren Team competes in the breakaway during the 77th Tour of Spain 2022 Stage 5 a 1872km stage from Irn to Bilbao LaVuelta22 WorldTour on August 24 2022 in Bilbao Spain Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images
(Image credit: Getty Images)

AG2R-Citroen reported two positive antigen tests for COVID-19 for Andrea Vendrame and Jaakko Hänninen on Friday.

The two riders will not take to the start for the seventh stage of the Vuelta. The team was already forced to replace Dorian Godon from its selection following a positive test just before the Gran Salida in Utrecht.

Vendrame, who won a stage at the 2021 Giro d’Italia, and Hanninen, who came 4th overall at the Tour de l’Ain earlier this month, were both part of the team providing support for the GC campaign of the team's Australian leader Ben O’Connor. The loss of two team mates at such an early stage in the race will be a body blow for O’Connor, who was forced to withdraw from the Tour de France with a hip injury after a poor run of luck saw him suffer a number of crashes and mechanical issues.

The COVID positives are not the first at this year’s Vuelta. Daan Hoole (Trek-Segafredo) withdrew prior to stage five, with Jan Hirt (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) leaving a day later. It brings the total abandonments from the race so far to 7. With coronavirus cases currently relatively low in Spain, the organisers will hope that the virus does not take hold within the peloton. 

Last month, the Tour de France fared relatively well in terms of COVID positives in its first week, with no abandonments due to the virus until just prior to the second rest day. 

A total of 17 riders withdrew from the race from stage 8 onwards, with AG2R Citroen suffering from 3 positive tests (Geoffrey Bouchard, Mikaël Cherel and Aurélien Paret-Peintre).

Ben O'Connor is riding La Vuelta for the second time, aiming to improve on his 25th position in 2019. He was widely tipped to have a strong performance at this year's Tour, following his third place at the Critérium du Dauphiné behind the Jumbo-Visma pairing of Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard. O'Connor won a stage in Tignes on the 2021 Tour. 

He is currently in 15th in the overall GC standings.

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