Between two rounds of COVID-19 tests, the Giro d’Italia on Thursday pursued its journey in a 12th stage won by Ecuadoran Jhonatan Narvaez in Cesenatico, the home town of Italian cycling legend Marco Pantani.
However, rumor and concern circulated among the riders in a race which has already been abandoned by two teams — Mitchelton-Scott and Jumbo-Visma.
The International Association of Teams requested and got the new round of tests, without waiting for the next scheduled rest day on Monday.
The EF Education First team even recommended ending the race tomorrow, before the third and final week.
However, the International Cycling Union said that the organizers were committed to tightening the race “bubble” and finishing on Oct. 25 in Milan.
“We’re not threatening to leave,” EF Education First team manager Jonathan Vaughters said, adding that it had been a “suggestion.”
“We prefer to go to the end and we’ll continue if the next round of tests show that it can be done safely,” he said.
On leaving Cesenatico, false rumors circulated that 17 members of the Giro’s police escort had tested positive for COVID-19, after several days in isolation.
The organizers said that the officers in question were dealing with a parallel race, the E-Giro, not rubbing shoulders with the riders.
Belgian Thomas de Gendt, whose physical performance has dropped in the past few days, said that his concerns were shared by part of the peloton.
“I’m not just worried about myself, but also about my family, and I don’t want to run the risk of infecting someone,” De Gendt told Flemish TV.
“It’s extremely uncertain,” race leader Joao Almeida of Portugal said. “I fear that the Giro will not go to Milan. Everyone has their opinion on the matter. For my part, I want to continue, my team, too, to do what I have to do.”
In the race around Cesenatico, Narvaez gave Ineos Grenadiers their third stage win, crossing the line alone after a difficult 204km stage along the rain-soaked roads of Emilia-Romagna.
Narvaez finished 1 minute, 8 seconds ahead of Ukrainian Mark Padun, who held on despite a puncture 24km from the line, with Australian Simon Clarke crossing third at 6:50.
“It’s not a problem for me to race in the rain, in fact I prefer it to the hot weather,” Narvaez said.
The 23-year-old dedicated his first WorldTour win to former Ineos sports director Nico Portal, who died aged 40 this year after a heart attack.
“I learned a lot from him,” Narvaez said.
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