The Mitchelton-Scott and Jumbo-Visma teams have both withdrawn from the Giro d’Italia following positive Covid-19 tests on Monday’s rest day. Four Mitchelton-Scott staff members returned positive results and the team subsequently announced their withdrawal on Tuesday morning.
With the Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk, leader of the Jumbo-Visma team, already out of the race following a positive result, the team did not appear to sign in for Tuesday’s stage 10, and soon announced their own decision to pull the entire team out of the event. The withdrawal of a second full team immediately raised questions over the viability of the whole race, and whether or not it will make it to the scheduled finish in Milan on 25 October.
The Australian rider Michael Matthews of Team Sunweb had also tested positive and was consequently off the start-line for Tuesday’s stage. Mitchelton-Scott’s British rider Simon Yates – a general classification contender – tested positive for the coronavirus and pulled out of the race before Saturday’s stage eight.
“Unfortunately we received the news on Monday evening that we have returned a number of positive Covid-19 results to members of our staff after our third round of tests in three days,” Mitchelton-Scott’s general manager Brent Copeland said. “As a social responsibility to our riders and staff, the peloton and the race organisation we have made the clear decision to withdraw from the Giro d’Italia.”
Mitchelton-Scott had returned two negative rounds of tests on Friday and Saturday before being notified of the positives from testing on Sunday. The team, which had held aspirations of securing the pink jersey through Yates, withdrew immediately.
“Thankfully those impacted remain asymptomatic or with mild symptoms,” Copeland said. “But as an organisation the health of all of our riders and staff is our main priority and we are now focused on safely transporting them to areas where they are most comfortable to conduct a period of quarantine. We wish the [race organisers] RCS and the rest of the peloton a successful finish to this year’s edition of the Giro d’Italia and we look forward to returning in 2021.”
Speaking to Eurosport on Tuesday afternoon, the Jumbo-Visma sports director Addy Engels said: “This is a really big thing of course, with a lot of consequences. But even then the health of our riders, staff and the people working at Giro should always be the priority. That’s in the end why we decided to quit.”
Asked why Jumbo-Visma decided to pull out en masse in contrast to Team Sunweb, who are still in the race despite Matthews’ positive Covid-19 test, Engels added: “I don’t know why our decision is different, because I was not in touch with them [Sunweb] about their decision. It’s something you do for yourself. Mitchelton-Scott had one positive [Simon Yates] and now another four, so you see it’s likely to grow, then the fear grows too … This is a decision taken with the riders and of course the management.”
Neither Kruijswijk nor Matthews displayed symptoms and, with teammates and staffers having returned negative tests, both Jumbo-Visma and Sunweb looked set to continue the race before the Dutch outfit announced their withdrawal.
Given the strict biosecurity measures teams and riders are subjected to, Kruijswijk said the news came as a surprise. “Within the team we take a lot of measures to avoid contamination,” he said. “And I just feel fit. I can’t believe I got it. It is a very big disappointment to get this news. It is a pity that I have to leave the Giro this way.”
Two more staff members – one from AG2R-La Mondiale and one from Ineos Grenadiers – have also reportedly tested positive.