Simon Yates has withdrawn from the Giro d’Italia ahead of Saturday’s stage eight after testing positive for coronavirus.
The 28-year-old began to show “very mild symptoms” following stage seven on Friday, his Mitchelton-Scott team said, and was subsequently tested at the request of their medical team.
Yates, who began the race among the overall favourites, has been isolated in his hotel room and will now enter a period of quarantine, but his positive test leaves questions for the race itself.
Mitchelton-Scott team doctor Matteo Beltemacchi said: “Simon displayed a very mild temperature on Friday evening during our routine temperature checks, which have been completed three times per day during the course of the Giro d’Italia.
“Following the team’s Racesafe Covid-19 policy, he was isolated in his room and we immediately requested a rapid test using the services offered by (race organiser) RCS, which has returned positive.”
A follow-up test confirmed the result and Dr Beltemacchi added: “Simon’s health remains our main concern and, thankfully, his symptoms remain very mild and he is otherwise in good health. We want to thank the RCS for their support in arranging the quick testing and his transport.”
Mitchelton-Scott said their other riders had all returned negative tests and would continue to race, but will be subject to additional testing.
Yates is the first rider to test positive in the Giro, which has not adopted the same “two strikes” rule that would have seen teams sent home from the Tour de France last month if more than one person within their camp tested positive.
On Friday, as news broke of the cancellation of Paris-Roubaix due to spikes in northern France, Giro race director Mauro Vegni had told Italian media he could not guarantee his own race would make it to Milan, where the final stage is scheduled to finish on October 25.
Speaking after Yates’ positive test, Vegni told Eurosport: “Nobody can consider themselves safe or exempt from this problem, nobody is immune from this virus.
“It’s crucial to have tests and to be able to get results very quickly so we can avoid spreading the virus and we’ve got that screening capability at the Giro…
“We will test all the teams between now and Monday and have the results on Monday. We tested all the Mitchelton-Scott riders last night – and this morning we got the results. They were all negative apart from Simon Yates.
“It might have been an issue for a few days but as soon as we were asked to check on him, we tested him. The most important thing is to test all the riders to avoid spreading the virus.”
Yates, the 2018 Vuelta a Espana winner, had entered the Giro as one of the pre-race favourites after his victory in Tirreno-Adriatico last month.
But he struggled on Monday’s stage three on Mount Etna, finishing more than four minutes after stage winner Jonathan Caicedo and more than three minutes down on the main group of overall contenders.
The Bury rider sat 21st overall, three minutes and 52 seconds down on race leader Joao Almeida, after Friday’s stage seven to Brindisi.
Yates’ exit means that both of Britain’s overall contenders in the race are out after Ineos Grenadiers’ Geraint Thomas suffered a fractured pelvis in a freak accident with a stray drinks bottle in the neutralised zone of stage three, withdrawing from the race a day later.
Deceuninck-QuickStep’s Almeida leads by 43 seconds from Pello Bilbao of Bahrain-McLaren going into Saturday’s 200-kilometre stage eight from Giovinazzo to Vieste.