The Giro d’Italia was on the brink of cancellation on Tuesday after five teams were hit by COVID-19 cases on the first rest day, with two pulling out of the three-week grand tour 12 days before the finish in Milan.
The Australian Mitchelton-Scott team withdrew after four staff members tested positive for coronavirus following top rider Simon Yates pulling out last week.
Jumbo-Visma, whose leader Steven Kruisjwijk tested positive, said it would not start the 10th stage on Tuesday.
A Team Sunweb rider, one staff member from Ineos-Grenadiers and AG2R-La Mondiale also returned positive tests, organisers RCS said.
With the health of riders & staff our priority, we have withdrawn from the @giroditalia after results of the rest day COVID-19 testing, our 3rd round of testing in 3 days, revealed positive results for some of our staff.
Full details 👇https://t.co/PWd7q5kcdL
— Mitchelton-SCOTT (@MitcheltonSCOTT) October 13, 2020
Sunweb said Australian Michael Matthews had tested positive and was asymptomatic, and Jumbo-Visma later said on Twitter it was out of the race with sports director Addy Engels saying “we thought it was the most responsible decision because we’ve all been close to Steven.”
Mitchelton-Scott said its team was notified of the four positive results from tests done on Sunday.
“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,” the team’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.
“Thankfully, those impacted remain asymptomatic or with mild symptoms.”
Team Jumbo-Visma won't start in today’s tenth stage of the Giro d’Italia. More information will follow.
— Team Jumbo-Visma cycling (@JumboVismaRoad) October 13, 2020
Yates, who like Kruijswijk had been among the pre-race favourites, withdrew on Saturday after testing positive for the virus.
Mitchelton-Scott was down to five riders – Jack Haig, Lucas Hamilton, Michael Hepburn, Damien Howson and Cameron Meyer – from its original eight after Yates’ withdrawal.
Eduardo Affini and Brent Bookwalter saw their races ended by crashes during the opening week.
On last month’s Tour de France, two positive tests in a team within one week would have triggered the ejection of the outfit from the race but no such rule was put in place for the Italian grand tour.
Dutchman Jos van Emden of Jumbo-Visma criticised the organisation, saying the biosecure bubble at the Giro was not secure enough.
“The other day we were in there with four or five teams … but in that particular hotel we were in … just normal people were there and they were all eating from the same buffet so I think it was a real big mistake,” Van Emden told The Cycling Podcast.
“I heard from a guy from (Deceuninck) Quick Step they had exactly the same. This guy sent me a movie from their dining hall and also Mitchelton-Scott were there … for me there’s no doubt where he (Simon Yates) got the virus.”
Elite racing resumed in August after a four-and-a-half month hiatus.
However, the resurgence of COVID-19 in Europe has forced local authorities and organisers to cancel races, such as the Netherlands’ Amstel Gold Race, which had been scheduled for Saturday, and the Paris-Roubaix due to be raced on October 25.