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Tour de France

Bouchard, Stake Laengen leave Tour de France as COVID strikes the peloton

Tadej Pogačar's teammate Vegard Stake Langen and climber ace Geoffrey Bouchard become first riders struck by coronavirus.

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Geoffrey Bouchard and Vegard Stake Laengen won’t be on the startline for stage 8 of the Tour de France. The pair are the first riders out with COVID-19.

Ag2r-Citroën confirmed Saturday morning Bouchard tested positive for coronavirus after the stage Friday. He was immediately isolated from the team bubble.

“Since the start, the Ag2r-Citroën has carried out antigenic tests every three days in addition to the tests carried out by the organizers of the Tour de France. The entire team – riders and staff – underwent an antigen test on Thursday evening or Friday morning, which resulted in negative tests for the whole group,” said team medic Dr. Serge Niamke.

Tadej Pogačar‘s UAE Emirates crew confirmed Stake Laengen would be stepping out shortly afterward.

“Vegard tested negative yesterday morning during the routine internal team testing protocol. But he reported sore throat symptoms late last night,” said team staffer Dr. Adriano Rotunno.

“The COVID 19 antigen test was positive, and the diagnosis was confirmed on PCR test this morning. As per protocol, for his, the team, and the peloton’s safety, he will be withdrawn from the race.”

Bouchard and Stake Laengen are the first riders known to have contracted COVID since the race rolled out of Copenhagen. Jumbo Visma and Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl were hit with cases within their staffing crew early in the Tour.

Stake Laengen’s positive test will strike a chill down Pogačar and UAE Emirates after top domestique Matteo Trentin tested positive shortly before the grand départ.

Tour director Thierry Gouvenou said organizers had been braced for the virus digging into the peloton.

“We saw the figures [of infections] rising throughout France and we were put on red alert during the Tour de Suisse when 40 riders had to pull out,” he told AFP.

The Tour de Suisse last month saw a swath of riders come down with COVID, and the UCI was quick to roll out its updated health policies ahead of the Tour. Most teams have gone over and beyond the minimum requirement.

“We have implemented a very strict protocol for months to guarantee the health of our riders and our management. I’m sad for Geoffrey, who we were counting on for the next few days. The Tour is not over and we still hope to be at the front of the stages when we arrive in the mountains,” Ag2r manager Vincent Lavenau said.

Ag2r and UAE Emirates are both down to seven.