The UCI has responded to concerns about the COVID-19 situation at the Giro d'Italia, stating that race organisers RCS Sport will carry out further rounds of testing on Thursday and Friday ahead of the already arranged round of testing set to take place on the race's second rest day next Monday.
The move comes after several members of the peloton have spoken about safety and the race 'bubble'. Jos Van Emden, whose Jumbo-Visma team left the race after Steven Kruijswijk's positive test, said that the Dutch squad dined alongside four other teams, police and other race staff, as well as the general public.
Before the start of stage 12 on Thursday, Lotto Soudal rider Thomas De Gendt spoke of how he is "starting to feel unsafe" at the race, while EF Pro Cycling later wrote to the UCI and RCS Sport requesting the race be stopped on Monday, also requesting two rounds of testing before the rest day.
In response, RCS Sport has agreed to the requests from teams and the UCI and will put on further testing rounds over the next two days.
"The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) is closely monitoring the health situation at the Giro d'Italia, in coordination with the organiser RCS and the competent Italian authorities," the UCI said in a statement to Cyclingnews.
"Following the eight positive COVID-19 cases identified after the batch of PCR tests undertaken, under the UCI protocol, on the first rest day, the organiser has agreed – at our request and that of the teams – to reinforce the measures by introducing saliva antigenic tests today (Thursday) and Friday before the next PCR tests that will be carried out on the second rest day (Monday 19)."
The UCI statement added that RCS Sport will take steps to further secure the Giro d'Italia 'bubble'. Earlier this week, a rider at the race told Cyclingnews that "the only bubble we have around us is the one we have inside our masks".
On Thursday morning it emerged that 17 police officers at the Giro-E, a corresponding electric bike race which precedes the arrival of the Giro stages, had tested positive for COVID-19. They have been placed into quarantine in Francavilla a Mare in Abruzzo, close to where riders and staff spent Monday’s rest day.
After stage 12 race director Mauro Vegni defended the existing measures taken to safeguard the race, even suggesting that teams themselves are to blame for the spread of the virus.
In their statement, the UCI did not outline in any detail what the additional measures implemented at the Giro would be.
"The organiser has also undertaken to implement measures to secure the race bubble, a central principle of the UCI protocol," the UCI said. "The result of these measures will be closely monitored, and we will take any additional measures that prove necessary.
"The UCI would like to recall that each individual and each cycling family present at the race must play their part in respecting the fundamental principles of risk reduction (social distancing, wearing masks).
"Each of us must now take up the challenge of arriving in Milan on 25 October for the final stage of the Giro d’Italia and then finishing the remainder of the season, which can be achieved by continuing the spirit of collaboration and unity in professional cycling."
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