George Bennett and Rafał Majka have tested positive for Covid. The news was announced by UAE Team Emirates on Tuesday morning, and could damage race leader Tadej Pogačar's hopes of defending his title.
Bennett has been withdrawn from the Tour de France although Majka has been cleared to continue racing.
UAE Team Emirates confirmed that Bennett was displaying some symptoms on Monday evening and will not start today’s stage in Morzine after returning a positive test result. However after being cleared by the UCI medical team, Rafał Majka will race on.
UAE Team Emirates confirmed the news via social media and on Bennett, they said:
“Sadly our rider George Bennett tested positive for Covid-19 and will not continue today in the #TDF2022 On Monday he was tested as per internal protocols of the team and returned a positive result. This was confirmed by a PCR test.”
The statement included comments from Dr. Adrian Rotunno, Medical Director at UAE Team Emirates who added:
“On Monday night George displayed some symptoms and per our protocol he was tested for Covid-19 and returned a positive result. Therefore he will not start today."
Ahead of a crucial week of racing in the high-mountains, Bennett’s withdrawal is a huge blow for Tadej Pogačar and the team.
Bennett is a key mountain domestique for the current race leader and has been present at the front of the peloton in the UAE train for much of the race. Last Friday on the climb to La Planche des Belles Filles, Bennett was one of the last riders to stay with Pogačar along with Rafał Majka. He would also have been expected to be present on the final climb to Col du Granon and Alpe d'Huez in stages this week.
In relation to Majka's positive test, the statement from Dr. Rotunno added:
"As per our internal protocols Rafał Majka was tested for Covid-19 and returned a positive result this morning. He is asymptomatic and analysing his PCR found he had a very low risk of infectivity, similar to the case of Bob Jungels earlier in the race."
"As per protocol we reported it to the UCI medical team this morning, who granted Rafal permission to take the start just prior to race departure. We are aware Rafal's clinical picture may change and we are closely monitoring his situation."
UAE Team Emirates are now down to six remaining riders in a huge blow for Tadej Pogačar in a big week of racing. It remains to be seen how much Maijka will be able to contribute to the team in light of his illness.
Last week Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) showed signs of what he was capable of on Friday’s stage and is widely expected to thrive on the longer climbs on Wednesday and Thursdays summit finishes. Vingegaard is just 39 seconds from the race lead, and if Jumbo-Visma pile on the pressure this week then Pogačar may find himself quickly isolated.
Bennett and Majka's positive tests come not long after another positive test at UAE Team Emirates at the Tour de France. Last week, Vegard Stake Laengen also returned a positive test result and was withdrawn from racing.
When asked about the UAE Team Emirates situation, Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) told Cycling Weekly that ahead of the big mountain stages, Bennett's withdrawal would be felt by Pogačar's squad.
The American rider explained that it wouldn't immediately impact his team's tactics.
Kuss said: "Yeah, it's definitely a blow for UAE. Especially coming into the mountains now. They still have a lot of strong guys left and for the most part, it won't change our tactics too much.
Earlier today, Luke Durbridge (BikeExchange-Jayco) was also withdrawn from the Tour after also returning a positive test result which was confirmed by his team.
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