A torrent of COVID cases is throwing a wrench into finely tuned Tour de France training plans.
Leading Tour team Jumbo-Visma and yellow jersey contenders Adam Yates and Aleksandr Vlasov are among those that pulled out of racing at the Tour of Slovenia and Tour de Suisse.
Jumbo-Visma captains Wout van Aert, Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard dodged the COVID curse by racing in France last week.
However top domestiques including Sepp Kuss, Rohan Dennis, and Robert Gesink are all missing crucial racing efforts just weeks before the July 1 Grand Départ.
“A part of their preparation toward the Tour was to ride those longer climbs in Tour de Suisse at a high intensity and a long time trial at a high intensity. So that’s quite a big loss, to be honest,” Jumbo-Visma trainer Mathieu Heijboer told VeloNews on Friday.
“It’s a little bit worrying they don’t get the efforts that they would need as part of the preparation.”
Jumbo-Visma left the Swiss race Thursday after COVID hit unnamed numbers and names of its team bubble.
Heijboer is scrambling to reconfigure training plans for crucial team workhorses in the most important weeks of pre-Tour prep.
“I admit it’s not ideal. But still, we have enough experience in the team to know that even with training, we can get the guys at a very high level for the Tour,” Heijboer said in a call.
Jumbo-Visma won’t be the only one getting in cold sweats about the state of its riders.
Bora-Hansgrohe captain Vlasov was a high-profile victim Friday. UAE Emirates, Bahrain-Victorious, and EF Education-EasyPost have all been battered by a concerning COVID crush just two weeks from the Tour. Tour de France champion Tadej Pogačar has so far been unaffected as he races on home Slovenian roads.
Jumbo-Visma said it did not see its Tour de France shortlist being impacted by its Swiss shock.
For likely Tour candidates like Kuss and Dennis, it’s a race against the clock to reach the level they were supposed to hit with hard racing in Switzerland.
“We’re going to plan some intensive training sessions for those who are not ill. But the problem is, we have to wait a few days because they could be infected as well, which is not yet to be found in testing,” Heijboer said. “You don’t want riders to train very hard when they are infected. Because then, the illness can become more severe.”
Heijboer won’t be the only staffer sweating over riders’ schedules as COVID runs riot through the Euro peloton.
“We want to be absolutely sure that there are no more positive cases, and we have to do a follow-up the next days, ” he said Friday.
“When they are definitely staying healthy then we will for sure plan some hard workouts that are replicating the work that had to be done in Switzerland.”