The AG2R Citroën team have revealed that Aurélien Paret-Peintre and Mikaël Chérel were the two riders at the Tour de France to test positive for COVID-19 on the final rest day and further testing has ruled that their viral load does not allow them to continue in the race.
“Following the weekly antigen and PCR tests carried out by ASO on Sunday, July 17, in Carcassonne and confirmed this morning, Tuesday, July 19, the results of two of our riders present a viral load that does not allow them to continue the Tour de France,” the AG2R Citroën team announced an hour before the start of stage 16 in Carcassonne.
“Following the collective decision of the UCI doctor, the Tour de France doctor and the AG2R CITROËN TEAM doctor, Aurélien Paret-Peintre and Mikaël Chérel will not start the sixteenth stage this morning in Carcassonne.”
Chérel and Paret-Peintre are the ninth and tenth riders obliged to leave the 2022 Tour de France due to COVID-19. After the start of the stage, the Cofidis team announced that Max Walscheid had tested positive in internal testing and was out of the race, making him the eleventh.
Lennard Kämna also did not start 16 but his Bora-Hansgrohe team announced that he had been suffering with a persistent cold and that daily COVID-19 tests were negative.
A change to the UCI COVID-19 protocol ahead of this year’s Tour means that riders who return a positive test for COVID-19 are not automatically withdrawn from the race. Bob Jungels (AG2R Citroen) was allowed to start the race despite testing positive in the week before the Grand Départ after doctors deemed that he was no longer contagious. He went on to win stage 9 to Châtel. However the French team has endured a difficult Tour de France, losing leader Ben O’Connor on the first rest day last Monday due to a worsening glute muscle injury.
"We found out in the morning that the riders were positive for COVID-19, but with quite a low level. They were contagious, even though they were asymptomatic," AG2R Citroen team manager Vincent Lavenu explained to Cyclingnews at the start in Carcassonne.
"Bob was a little bit in the same situation before the Tour, but he was deemed not to be contagious. Aurelien and Mickael’s viral loads were just a degree or two higher, and they aren’t allowed to start. This is the reality of the Tour de France, even if it’s not the reality of everyday life right now.
"Physically they would absolutely have been able to continue in the race, but their tests were positive and to preserve the health of the peloton, we were asked, in agreement with ASO and our doctors, to take a wise and reasonable decision.
"The wise and reasonable thing here was not to send contagious riders into the peloton, so as to preserve everybody’s health the decision was taken to withdraw the riders. It’s frustrating for them because they’re not ill, they feel perfectly healthy. It’s like that, the decision was taken in agreement with the medical team of ASO.
AG2R Citroen is down to just three riders in the Tour: Benoit Cosnefroy, Stan Dewulf and Bob Jungels.
"It's quite frustrating for the team and the riders above all. It’s been an unlucky Tour for us," Lavenu said.
"We set out with big ambitions here, we had the right to think that Ben O’Connor could finish in the top five based on his physical condition, but he crashed. We lost Bouchard to COVID. Oliver Naesen didn’t have COVID but he was ill and had to leave too. And now we’ve lost two more riders. For the first time, we’re down to just three riders on the Tour.
"For us, the team and our sponsors, it’s sad to be down to three riders. Aurelien Pareit-Peintre could still have aimed for a top 15 or top 20 place if he’d been able to stay in the race. It’s frustrating."
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has been Head of News at Cyclingnews since 2022, before which he held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and CyclingWeekly, among other publications.