It’s another all-clear for the “race bubble” at the Vuelta a España.
There were no positive cases in the latest and final round of controls at the season’s final grand tour. The news clears the way for the final week of racing just as health conditions worsen across Spain.
Despite the number of new COVID-19 cases spiking across Spain — there were more than 55,000 new cases registered over the weekend — it appears the bubble concept is working well at the Spanish grand tour. Riders, staffers and race officials were tested to coincide with the Vuelta’s rest day Monday.
“Overall, each of the 681 tests carried out (528 to the teams and the others to the members of the organization considered level 2 of the race bubble) returned negative results,” a statement read Tuesday.
Two staffers from two different teams tested positive for COVID-19 in pre-race screenings last month. Since then, there have been four other rounds of controls using the PCR test with no new detected cases. Despite promising to utilize a strict, “two-strikes-and-out” policy, officials said there have been no new cases since the Vuelta began.
Riders at the Vuelta said they have been impressed with how the race has been organized in terms of health and safety.
“You really do feel safe here at the race,” said Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma). “We are separated from the public at the hotels, and the race has done a good job at keeping the fans far away at the starts and finishes. It’s the safest I’ve felt at a race all year.”
The latest round of controls clears the way for the Vuelta to enter the final week of racing. Following Monday’s rest day, the race continues Tuesday with a decisive 33.7km individual time trial along Galicia’s Atlantic coast, ending atop the short but steep Évaro summit.
There is some concern that worsening health conditions could impact stages going into the final weekend, particularly the closing day route that finishes in downtown Madrid. Parts of Spain’s capital are already under limited restrictions, and there are growing expectations that a new round of lockdowns are imminent. So far, officials say they have assurances from government authorities that the race will be able to continue as planned.