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Vuelta a Espana

Three more COVID-19 cases at Vuelta a España, Jake Stewart leaves with other illness

Seven positives in four days will worry organizers.

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COVID-19 cases continued to grow at the Vuelta a España on Saturday, with three further riders existing the race due to the virus.

Nikias Arndt, Mark Donovan (Team DSM) and Anthony Delaplace (Arkea-Samsic) all tore off their race numbers due to positive tests.

A fourth, Jake Stewart (Groupama-FDJ), tested negative for the virus but was also a non-starter due to illness.

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Worryingly for race organizers, the three latest cases increase the number of COVID-19 withdrawals to seven in just four days.

Mads Pedersen’s leadout rider Daan Hoole (Trek-Segafredo) was first to exit, posting a positive test before Wednesday’s stage. Jan Hirt (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) was caught out on Thursday, and then on Friday Jaakko Hanninen and Andrea Vendrame (both Ag2r-Citroën) also had adverse results in antigen tests.

Their teammate Ben O’Connor articulated the frustration with the virus.

“It’s a pain in the arse is what it is,” he said on Friday. “I wouldn’t say the boys are very sick but they are not really allowed to start, to continue racing. It kind of sucks, and it is really frustrating. It puts a team down when we really didn’t need that.

“In the Tour de France, our team had six positives, which is just a bit of a joke. But what else can you do? There is nothing you can do about it, really, to be honest. You just have to hope that you either don’t test positive when we are testing or you just avoid it. There is just no real answer to it.”

The rising number of cases will likely spark concern amongst race officials and riders alike. Close to 20 riders also had to leave the Tour de France for the same reason but, considering those seven cases in just four days, the rate of the contraction of the virus is thus far much higher at the Vuelta.

Compulsory tests will take place on the race’s next rest day on Monday, with organizers keeping fingers crossed that those remaining in the peloton will get the all-clear.