UAE Team Emirates hope to ride Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège, indicating that Tadej Pogačar, Marc Hirschi and Brandon McNulty will be on the start line if they all test negative for COVID-19 before the race.
The team were stopped from riding Wednesday's La Flèche Wallonne after two positive COVID-19 tests earlier in the week, which, according to multiple reports, involved Diego Ulissi and team manager Mauro Gianetti.
They underwent further tests before La Flèche Wallonne and were negative for COVID-19, suggesting the cases were false positives. However, under the strict Belgian Cycling Federation COVID-19 protocol, the whole team were stopped from racing on Wednesday.
According to Andrea Agostini, the team’s Chief Operating Officer, Belgian medical protocols require a complex confirmation of any false positives, done via a specialist laboratory. Ulissi and Gianetti subsequently tested negative in two rapid antigen tests and a PCR test but the team were still not allowed to race as a precautionary measure.
It is unclear if the cases have now been officially declared false positives. However Pogačar and other riders completed a 200km reconnaissance ride of the Liège-Bastogne-Liège route, with the Tour de France winner also setting a new Strava personal best on the Côte de Stockeu climb.
Ulissi, who will not ride Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and Gianetti have reportedly headed home to Switzerland. Neither reportedly showed symptoms of COVID-19.
Gianetti was vaccinated against COVID-19 during the winter in the UAE as part of the country’s testing of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine. Ulissi was not vaccinated because he was out of action due to his now resolved heart problem.
Despite missing La Flèche Wallonne, the team now appear confident they can race Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
"We've been given the all clear to race Sunday (pending negative test results Friday)," UAE Team Emirates told Cyclingnews.
"This is the same test which applies to all teams -3 days before the race."
According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, the UAE Team Emirates line-up will include Pogačar, Hirschi, McNulty, Davide Formolo, David De la Cruz, Rui Costa and Vegard Stake Laengen.
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