COVID-19 Sweeps the Tour de Suisse.
An outbreak of COVID-19 cases caused chaos at the Tour de Suisse on Friday with the race leader, three teams, and about 30 riders pulling out of the event. Overall leader Aleksandr Vlasov tested positive one day after winning the fifth stage, the Russian rider's team said. The UAE Team Emirates, Alpecin-Fenix and Bahrain Victorious teams also withdrew, one day after the Jumbo-Visma squad left the eight-day race, which finishes Sunday. Four positive tests, including 2012 Olympic road race silver medalist Rigoberto Urán, were detected among the Education First squad in Friday morning tests. Swiss rider Marc Hirschi and Diego Ulissi also tested positive in the UAE squad, which citedteam safety reasons and the wider cycling community for leaving the race. The sixth stage started on time with 93 riders on the road and 30 having left, the race website said. In Vlasov's absence, the leader's yellow jersey was worn by Jakob Fuglsang, who is one second ahead of Geraint Thomas.
Stage 6 of the 2019 Tour de Suisse.
Adam Yates has also been withdrawn from the Tour de Suisse after a positive test for coronavirus. The Ineos Grenadier was experiencing mild symptoms and, after returning a positive lateral flow result, was withdrawn by his team. His departure follows the news that Jumbo-Visma has withdrawn their whole squad from the race after at least one member of the team caught the virus. At the same time, DSM also announced three of its riders had left the race after testing positive. In line with team and UCI protocols, Adam Yates has withdrawn from the Tour de Suisse 2022 this morning after experiencing mild symptoms and returning a positive lateral flow result. Yates was widely expected to challenge for overall victory in Switzerland and despite suffering from covid symptoms was sitting 10th overall. His departure leaves his teammate, Geraint Thomas, as the lone lead rider for Ineos at the race. With just over two weeks until the start of the Tour de France, Yates contracting coronavirus is bad timing for the Ineos Grenadiers team. Egan Bernal is still recovering after a horrific training accident and the quality of Yates's preparation will now be in doubt.
At the same time, COVID-19 also caused riders to drop from another major event. The UCI confirmed that additional members of the UAE Team Emirates organization had tested positive for COVID-19. Mikkel Bjerg tested positive at the Tour of Slovenia, where he was riding in support of team leader Tadej Pogačar, the current favorite for the Tour de France. Both Hirschi and Bjerg were initially withdrawn from competition -- at the Tour de Suisse and Tour of Slovenia, respectively. Their teammates and staff at both races returned negative tests but Joel Suter (roommate of Hirschi) and Vegard Stake Laengen (roommate of Bjerg) were removed from racing as a precautionary measure. However, then Diego Ulissi at the Tour de Suisse also tested positive for COVID-19, and the whole team was withdrawn from that event.
The weather and environment provided additional complications for riders as Remco Evenepoel's hopes of winning the Tour de Suisse were dashed on stage 5 when he struggled to keep pace with his rivals. Evenepoel began to struggle on an uncategorized climb with more than 20km to go and lost contact with the bunch. Although he rejoined the bunch with help from teammates, he was unable to follow as the race ignited on the final time of the key Pedrinate climb inside the final 10km. Evenepoel admitted that the heat had something to do with his struggles, but said that his legs were getting heavier and heavier as the stage went on. "It was a tough day," Evenepoel said. "The heat was really hard on everyone and I think that's what made the stage so hard. I just couldn't keep up with the pace in the end. It's disappointing, but I just didn't have the legs today."