Remco Evenpoel, the leader and favorite to win the Giro d’Italia, had to pull out of the race on Sunday after testing positive for the coronavirus.
Shortly before, the Belgian cyclist had won the day’s time trial stage to recover the general leader’s pink ‘maglia’.
But his Soudal Quick-Step team later reported that the world champion had tested positive for COVID-19 at the end of the ninth stage.
Evenepoel said, “I am very sorry to be out of the race.” “As part of the team’s protocol, I had a routine test, and unfortunately it came back positive.”
“My experience here was really special and I’m looking forward to racing over the next two weeks. I’m so grateful to the staff and my colleagues who made the sacrifices before the Giro. Will be rooting for them over the next two weeks “
The rest of the riders and team personnel tested negative.
Evenepoel also won the first day’s time trial and led the Giro by the end of the fourth stage.
The 45-year-old Belgian had a 45-second lead over Welshman Geraint Thomas, the new overall leader, and rider of the Ineos Grenadiers team. Primoz Rogic, touted as Evenpoel’s strongest rival, is two seconds behind.
Evenpoel, who won the Vuelta a España last year, has been very unlucky in Italy.
He was ruled out of the 2021 Giro, his previous participation on the Italian stage, after crashing. This was Evenpoel’s first competition since a spectacular accident the previous year, falling from a stone bridge into a ravine, ending with a fractured pelvis when he fell off the edge of a bridge.
It also happened in Italy in the Tour of Lombardy.
On Sunday, Evenepoel won the longest of the three individual time trials in the race. He trailed Thomas by just over a second on the nearly flat course between Savignano sul Rubicone and Cesena near the Adriatic coast.
After the win, Evenepoel said, “I think I didn’t do well enough. “I started very fast and my second half was not so good … It’s another stage win, but it’s my best time. Wasn’t tested.”
The first rest day of the Giro will be on Monday. The race will resume on Tuesday with a tenth stage featuring two mountain passes, one in the second category and the other in the fourth, covering a distance of 196 kilometers that will start in Scandiano and finish in Viareggio on the Tuscany coast.
The Italian round ends in Rome on 28 May.