Vincenzo Nibali will miss the upcoming Ruta del Sol as he becomes the latest rider in the peloton to catch the omicron variant of Covid-19.
Astana-Qazaqstan announced on Twitter (opens in new tab) that Nibali had contracted an "asymptomatic" case, and therefore won't be racing the five-stage race starting on Wednesday in the Andalucía region of Spain.
"Unfortunately, Vincenzo Nibali will be forced to change his racing program and to miss Vuelta a Andalucía due to an asymptomatic COVID-19," an Astana statement read. "The team will communicate about his new racing program later."
🇪🇸 MEDICAL: @VCANDALUCIA Unfortunately, @vincenzonibali will be forced to change his racing program and to miss Vuelta a Andalucía due to an asymptomatic COVID-19. The team will communicate about his new racing program later.#AstanaQazaqstanTeamFebruary 14, 2022
UCI medical protocol will require Nibali to undergo a series of heart and lung check-ups before he can race again, making it unclear whether the four-time Grand Tour winner will compete in Omloop Het Nieuwblad at the end of February.
The 37-year-old entered his 18th professional season in the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana at the beginning of the month, finishing 16th in the general classification as Aleksandr Vlasov took the win.
In order to focus on racing the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France, Nibali scrapped his plans to ride all five Monuments. However, it is still likely he will compete at Milan-San Remo, which he won in 2018, and at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Nibali's positive Covid-19 test isn't anything new in the peloton though, with a number of riders forced to miss races and alter plans due to infections. João Rodrigues is unable to defend his Volta ao Algarve title this weekend, while Alejandro Valverde decided not to start his home race at the Vuelta a Murcia.
Meanwhile, a positive test forced Richard Carapaz to pull out of the Tour de la Provence last week ahead of the second stage, with Tadej Pogačar also testing positive last week - though he wasn't racing, and is still confirmed to race the UAE Tour this month.
Teams are stringently sticking to rules in order to limit infections, adhering to the UCI's pre-race screenings and imposing measures of their own too. Jumbo-Visma epitomised this last month, closing down their pre-season training camp in Spain after an outbreak of cases.
The Belgian outfit, along with BikeExchange-Jayco, also withdrew from the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana after some riders returned positive results.
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Ryan is a staff writer for Cycling Weekly, having joined the team in September 2021. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before making his way to cycling. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer.
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