The spate of Covid withdrawals “could end up being disastrous” for La Vuelta, according to Eurosport expert Dan Lloyd.
Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco) and Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers) became the biggest names to exit the race due to the virus on Wednesday, with the pair fifth and ninth in the general classification respectively.
In total, 21 riders have abandoned the Spanish Grand Tour due to Covid, while 12 more have exited the race for other reasons.
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“At this rate, Chris Froome could win the Vuelta! There’s so many people going out of it,” joked Adam Blythe on The Breakaway before quickly backtracking.
“It is such a shame. If you’re feeling sick and coming under the weather, you can accept it a bit more.
“But for the likes of Sivakov, who feels great and did a fantastic time trial yesterday, he’ll be absolutely gutted. Riding himself back into the top 10, looking like he’s getting stronger and just being taken out of the race because of Covid. He must be gutted.”
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Questions have been raised after charter flights transferred riders from the Dutch gran salida to Spain, and then again out of the Basque Country, while fans have lined the route throughout.
Lloyd fears the hasty reintroduction of Covid-safe protocols might be “a bit late”.
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“I think this is where it all gets confusing for fans of the sport and even I think for the riders and teams,” he said.
“You’ve got Bob Jungels starting the Tour de France having tested positive for Covid, you’ve got Rafal Majka who tested positive within the race [the Tour] and is allowed to continue the race after assessment.
“Then you have Pavel Sivakov who has tested positive, has no symptoms whatsoever but the protocol for the team, protocol they say for the UCI as well, is to pull him out of the race.
“This could end up being disastrous for La Vuelta - 21 dropouts due to Covid, well over 10% of the peloton. And when you look at the numbers for each day, they are ramping up.
“Today and yesterday, the most cases we have had in the race. If it continues with this trajectory… it’s not looking particularly good.
“It’s only when you get the likes of a Yates or a Sivakov in the top 10 you really think ‘oh yeah, this is affecting the race’. When it’s slightly smaller-name riders, you might not think it’s a big enough factor to really worry about.
“It’s only now that they’re starting to reimplement some of the Covid-safe protocols around the race and protect the riders. But I do fear it’s a bit late.”
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