Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious) and Pieter Serry (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) will not start stage nine of the Vuelta a España after returning positive Covid-19 tests.
The duo are the ninth and tenth riders to leave this year’s race with the virus, following Mark Donovan, Nikias Arndt (Team DSM) and Anthony Delaplace (Arkéa Samsic) who were all non-starters on stage eight.
Ahead of Sunday’s 171.4km stage to Les Praeres, Bahrain Victorious wrote on Twitter: “Wout Poels will not start stage 9 of La Vuelta due to a positive Covid-19 test with mild symptoms.
“All other riders and staff have returned negative tests. The team will start the race today with 7 riders.”
Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl posted a similar update regarding Serry: “After falling ill overnight, Pieter Serry was tested by the team doctor for Covid-19. Unfortunately, the test has returned positive and Pieter will leave La Vuelta.
The Belgian team continued by saying that they would continue to implement a “stringent testing regime” to minimise the risk of further infections among their staff.
Serry, a key part of the team supporting Remco Evenepoel’s (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) general classification bid, voiced his sadness on Twitter after having to withdraw. “I’m so so disappointed to leave La Vuelta,” the Belgian wrote. “Covid 19 got me for the first time, and yes, I’m ill. I wish my team all the best, you guys are all strong enough to fight for the red jersey.”
Another rider who will not take the start line in Villaviciosa is Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma), who has dropped out of the race with a fever. The American’s withdrawal could prove to be a big blow for Jumbo-Visma, who have relied heavily on him as a pivotal mountain domestique in previous editions of the race.
Before the Vuelta began in Utrecht, the organisers revealed that riders with a low viral load would not be forced to leave the race. Riders are being regularly checked for Covid-19 in Spain, with mass testing expected on Monday’s rest day.
At last month’s Tour de France, 16 riders went home early having contracted the virus, including Enric Mas (Movistar), who currently sits in second on the general classification, 28 seconds behind Evenepoel.
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