Covid threatens to disrupt Tour de France line-up

Virus sweeps through the peloton at key preparation races with Tour de Suisse race leader Vlasov forced to abandon

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Teams fear that coronavirus could derail the line-up for the Tour de France after swathes of riders have been forced to abandon the Tour de Suisse and the Tour of Slovenia after testing positive.

A huge list of riders from multiple teams were withdrawn from the action this morning due to the virus. Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) won yesterday's stage five and held the overall lead, and his teammate, Anton Palzer, both tested positive for covid and are now out of the race. Bahrain-Victorious lost Gino Mäder to illness yesterday and have since withdrawn their whole squad from the race. 

Other names who are out of the race due to covid include Marc Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates), Stefan Bisseger, Alberto Bettiol, Rigoberto Urán and Hugh Carthy (EF Education–EasyPost) and Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers). 

Pidcock’s team mate, Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) was one of the names forced out of the action yesterday after a positive covid test. While, three DSM riders along with the whole of Jumbo-Visma are also out of the race in Switzerland.

Meanwhile, the team-mate of defending Tour de France champion Tadej Pogačar, Mikkel Bjerg was forced to leave the Tour of Slovenia this morning after testing positive for the virus.

The Tour de France gets underway in Copenhagen, Denmark, in just over two weeks. The positive covid cases in Switzerland and the the Tour of Slovenia will come as very bad timing for those using the race as preparation for the Tour.

Many teams are set to announce their Tour de France line-ups next week. 

Tom Pidcock

(Image credit: Getty Images)

UAE  Emirates director of performance Iñigo San-Millán said, in a tweet that was later deleted, that covid was “the largest enemy” of the Tour in 2022

It continued: “Much more than in the last two years. The way the situation is now with total lax of measurements against covid, TdF can be a complete chaos with major teams forced to leave the race. Le Tour please bring the bubble back.” 

San-Millán said he felt it was impossible to control covid without reintroduction of protocols.

“Selfies, pens from autographs, elevator buttons, door knobs, hand shaking…Without a strict bubble at Le Tour, it will be impossible to control covid and with many teams forced to leave the entire Tour may have to be cancelled. Le Tour please bring strict bubble back.” he added. 

San-Millán deleted some of his comments but he does not appear to be alone. Speaking to Ouest-France, Groupama-FDJ sports director, Philipe Maduit, said “everyone [at the Tour de Suisse] has the willies” and was crossing their fingers that they won’t be the next team to be affected.

Tadej Pogacar

(Image credit: Getty/SOPA Images)

 "For the moment, we cross our fingers because it falls hard next to us but we are not affected. This Friday morning, we felt it even more than yesterday and it was already impressive. It feels like coming back in February-March. Since yesterday, we have seen the return of masks everywhere," Maduit said.

However, Maduit was reluctant to commit to pulling the team's riders out of the Tour de Suisse due to the risk of picking up the virus elsewhere. "We are not considering that [pulling riders from the race]. Because honestly, if they go back, they're on a plane, but who says they won't catch it on the plane? It can happen at any time, you have to accept it, but be more careful.” he added. 

Tour de Suisse organiser Amaury Sport Organisation [ASO] has been approached for comment. 

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Tom Thewlis

Tom is a News and Features Writer at Cycling Weekly, and previously worked in communications at Oxford Brookes University. He has reported from a wide range of races and events including the Tour de France and World Championships.