COVID’s Grip on the Giro D’Italia Peloton

106th giro d'italia 2023 stage 6
Covid’s Grip on the Giro D’Italia PelotonTim de Waele - Getty Images

More than three years after the Covid pandemic forced lockdowns and social distancing protocols, the World Health Organization declared in early May that Covid is “no longer a public health emergency.” Despite this, Covid infections are still a reality as a growing number of cyclists on the WorldTour have tested positive for the virus.

This year, 176 riders started the Giro d’Italia. In stage 10 of the 21-stage race, several favored cyclists experienced Covid symptoms or tested positive, leading them to abandon the race and raising questions about how teams will manage the ongoing crisis and protect riders.

More riders are dropping out with symptoms

To date, ten riders have left Giro because of Covid according to Eurosport. Earlier today Bora-hansgrohe rider Aleksandr Vlasov, sixth in the general classification departed after “suffering with illness on Stage 10.”

“He clearly wasn't himself from the start this morning,” GCN commentator Dan Lloyd said after the stage.

Vlasov’s exit comes on the heels of face favorite Remco Evenepoel’s departure on Sunday shortly after earning the leader’s maglia rosa. Evenepoel's departure pushed Ineos Grenadiers rider Geraint Thomas into first place.

Other riders who’ve left the Giro because of covid include Intermarche-Circus-Wanty rider Sven Erik Bystrom, Ineos rider Filippo Ganna, Arkéa Samsic rider Clément Russo, Giovanni Aleotti a Bora-Hansgrohe rider, and Alpecin-Deceuninck rider Nicola Conci.

With the WHO’s declaration, Covid protocols are now dependent on each country and local jurisdiction. The UCI doesn’t require mandatory testing and instead defers Covid protocols to “the pandemic situation in the country,” according to Rouleur.

The question is, now what?

After losing stars like Evenepoel, Mauro Vegni, Giro race director stated “We will restore the obligation to wear masks," according to a La Gazzetta interview.

“Let us remember, among other things, that the WHO no longer classifies Covid as an international health emergency. This means that each team can do Covid tests if they want. Someone can decide to stop the runner for health reasons, someone can decide to let him continue.”

Vegni also concedes in the interview that “we gave up the attention a little too soon. We must continue to keep our guard up. We will start already from this week. We will restore some restrictions that had been abolished.”

Moving forward, anyone coming into contact with riders will be required to wear masks, including at the start and finish. In addition to riders and team staff, journalists and media personnel will be required to wear face coverings when interacting with riders.

In an attempt to stem additional Covid losses teams like Ineos Grenadiers will implement some additional Covid protocols.

“As a team, we're going to go back to that sort of strategy (when we were in our little bubble, and we were wearing masks in public spaces). If everybody in the race does the same thing, then hopefully it will stop other riders going home,” said Thomas according to Rouleur.

Though many riders are pulling out of the Giro because of Covid a handful of riders including Gino Mäder, Tobias Foss, Robert Gesink, and Giulio Ciccone didn’t make it to the starting line at all due to Covid, according to Cycling Stage.

With 11 more stages remaining, riders will need to continue navigating treacherous mishaps, precipitation, and the epic mountain stages, and hopefully the newly implemented Covid protocols ensure the safety of the athletes.

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