Mitchelton-Scott confirmed that their British GC leader developed very mild symptoms following the race’s seventh stage Friday and was tested that evening. Having returned a positive result, Yates was re-tested and was again confirmed as positive.
“Simon displayed a very mild temperature on Friday evening during our routine temperature checks, which have been completed three times per day during the course of the Giro d’Italia,” said team medic Doctor Matteo Beltemacchi on Saturday morning.
“Following the team’s RACESAFE COVID-19 policy, he was isolated in his room and we immediately requested a rapid test using the services offering by the RCS, which has returned positive.”
Yates had been struggling in his bid to take the pink jersey, riding high in the time trial only to lose minutes on the climb to Etna, and had been sitting nearly four minutes down on GC after stage 7.
The 28-year-old is now being transported away from the race by ambulance to undergo a period of quarantine, with the team reporting his symptoms to still be mild. The rest of the team and its staff “bubble” has also been tested as a precaution and have all tested negative, and will be retested in the coming days.
RCS Sport, organizers of the Giro, has cleared the Australian squad to keep racing.
Yates’ result is the first reported case of coronavirus among riders at either the Tour de France or the Giro. Testing protocol at the Tour last month did however reveal ASO director Christian Prudhomme and four team staffers to be positive, forcing them to leave the race for a period of quarantine.
While the Giro is not operating the strict “two strikes” rule implemented at the Tour de France, which placed teams at risk of ejection from the race in the case of two positive tests, RCS is implementing regular temperature checks and mandatory rest day COVID checks.
The news comes just the day after Paris-Roubaix was shuttered after a tightening of health controls in France. The cancelation of Roubaix men’s and women’s races is the second high-profile race to be scrapped since the August season restart. Dutch WorldTour event the Amstel Gold Race – due to run today, Saturday 10 October – also canceled last month due to new local restrictions put in place to control the pandemic.
With cases of coronavirus spiking again through northern Europe, Giro race director Mauro Vegni acknowledged Friday he had some concerns for his race making it to the final stage in Milan.
“Today we had confirmation of the cancellation of Paris-Roubaix. I’m very sorry about that, because we’re losing one of the most important classics in cycling,” Vegni told Italian broadcaster RAI on Friday afternoon. “And, above all, the situation worries me because it means that the level of contagion is rising, and we still have two weeks of the Giro to go.”
“I think that if we ended up in a situation like that ourselves, there would be little we could do. If the national authorities decided something, we would have to abide by their decree.”
The peloton will undergo its first round of on-race COVID checks Monday in what will undoubtedly be an increased level of tension after Yates’ departure.