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Olympic Games notebook: Simon Geschke and his COVID-19 ‘prison’

Newly crowned gold medalist Thomas Pidcock promises to race at cyclocross worlds in Arkansas, while German star languishes in Tokyo hotel following COVID diagnosis.

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It goes without saying the Olympic Games are not going the way Simon Geschke would have imagined.

Instead of racing for Olympic gold over the weekend, the 35-year-old German is a few days into a forced quarantine in a Tokyo hotel after being diagnosed with COVID-19 after landing in Japan.

Geschke tested positive for COVID-19 in one of the pre-Games screenings, and while a few riders did not travel to Japan after being diagnosed with COVID, including Namibian rider Dan Craven and Colombian Daniel Martínez, Geschke’s diagnosis came once he was already in Japan.

Now a few days into his forced confinement, the Cofidis rider told German TV ZDF  he is “in very good health, but so no emotionally.”

“Coronavirus sounds bad, but my PCR test is only slightly positive,” said Geschke, who was vaccinated ahead of the Games. “I feel good and I am in good health. The value is so low that not every test would have failed. I only got a very low viral load.”

Geschke’s isolation provides a glimpse into how serious Japanese officials are taking the larger threat of COVID-19. Many Japanese did not want the Olympic Games to be contested, and vaccination rates remain relatively low compared to European countries, so officials are handling every case with extreme care.

Geschke said conditions in his forced quarantine are far from ideal, and complained about forced health controls early in the morning and the unappetizing meals.

“You are woken up by a loudspeaker at 7 a.m., and then you have to measure your fever and oxygen saturation,” Geschke told German media. “For me, it is incomprehensible why it was to be done so early when you hardly have anything to do all day.”

Geschke said his quarantine hotel room doors and windows are locked, and he compared conditions to a psychiatric ward. He described that he must wash his own laundry in the sink, added that food is strictly controlled and that he can only leave his room for short scheduled breaks.

Geschke, who raced the Tour de France with Cofidis, traveled directly from Paris to Japan in what he described as a “nightmare” trip lasting 26 hours, and suspects he was infected at some point during his travels.

“I wasn’t negligent,” he told DPA. “I can only it that my immune system was weak after the Tour, and I got infected from something at the airport. That’s my theory.”

Geschke — whose father was an Olympic track cyclist — must remain in forced quarantine for eight days, and will only be tested again on his sixth day in confinement. Another test will be conducted within 24 hours, and if both are negative, he can leave the hotel the following day.

Geschke was in a team hotel near the road race facilities 100km from Tokyo when he tested positive ahead of Saturday’s road race, and he was transported to a special quarantine hotel in Tokyo. His German national team hotel room teammate Emanuel Buchmann did not test positive, and finished 29th in the elite men’s road race.

“I’ve been on the road for six weeks and I want to go home,” Geschke said. “Our doctor said that I could travel to Europe with my test result, and I should have been allowed to race because there is no risk of infection. But everything is a little different in Japan.”

Tom Pidcock to race in the USA following breakout gold medal

Mountain bike gold medalist Tom Pidcock will be showing off his new hardware in some select races in the United States in the coming months, but in a different discipline.

Also read: Tom Pidcock roars to gold medal in mountain bike

The British sensation is slated to make his grand tour debut at the Vuelta a España on August 14, and race the road world championships before shifting gears into cyclocross.

Pidcock confirmed he will race cyclocross World Cup events in the United States in October.

“Yes, my plan this year is to do the World Cups in America, and then do the last part of the season, from Christmas and until the [cyclocross] worlds,” he said. “Next year I want to target the mountain bike worlds as well as the road races in between, so for sure next year I’ll still be doing them all.”

Pidcock will head to the U.S. in the fall to compete in the cyclocross World Cup races and perhaps hit some European events before taking a break over the holidays, and then ramp up for the worlds in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Up next: women’s mountain biking

The women tackle the technically challenging, 4.1km loop Izu course Tuesday with 38 starters, the same number as men’s starters Monday.

Defending champion Jenny Rissveds (Sweden) will see stiff competition from Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (France), who could become the first reigning world champion to win Olympic gold in the women’s mountain bike event.

And if the French star medals Tuesday, Ferrand-Prévot could also become the first racer, male or female, to be a world champion on the road and win an Olympic medal in mountain biking.

Also read: Team members react to news of Olympic selection

Kate Courtney, Haley Batten, and Erin Huck lead USA Cycling in what could be a good chance for the Americans to score its first medal in cycling since the Tokyo Games began.