Soudal-QuickStep manager Patrick Lefevere has defended Remco Evenepoel’s decision to abandon the Giro d’Italia due to COVID-19, saying on Twitter “‘It’s not a 9-5” job.
Lefevere was responding to Wielerflits journalist Raymond Kerckhoff’s comment on the same social media channel about whether riders should abandon if they have no or few COVID-19 symptoms.
Lefevere was categorical in his answer saying: “Yes, Raymond. You never know what’s going on under the skin [internally]. This is not a 9-5 job. Zero risk.”
The 23-year-old World Champion was one of the favourites for victory at the Grand Tour, having opened his account with a dominant victory in the stage 1 time trial. After an eventful first week he won the Cesena time trial and took back the pink jersey but appeared tired after his ride.
“I am really sorry to be leaving the race,” Evenepoel said in a statement released by his team late on Sunday night. “As part of the team’s protocol, I took a routine test, which unfortunately was positive.
Lefevere’s insistence that there should be no risks taken by teams when a rider tests positive was echoed in comments by long-standing Soudal-QuickStep doctor Yvon van Mol had a few months ago.
L’Equipe newspaper quoted the team doctor as saying that COVID-19’s potential for leaving long-term effects and the lack of in depth knowledge about it, given the virus recent appearance, meant that it was better to be safe than sorry.
“We don’t know the consequences for their cardiac system, and our job as doctors is to prevent riders with COVID-19 from racing,” he said.
“We don’t have enough of a [long-term] perspective to be sure that won’t have an effect on their health. It’s a precaution.”
Soudal-QuickStep said all the team’s riders and staff in Italy were tested for COVID-19 on Sunday as part of a pre-rest day routine. Evenepoel is the only part of the Soudal-QuickStep Giro expedition to have tested positive.
Evenepoel is the latest rider at the 2023 Giro d’Italia to fall victim to COVID-19.
EF Education-EasyPost’s Rigoberto Uran tested positive earlier on Sunday, becoming the sixth rider to leave the race. Evenepoel and Uran join Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers), Nicola Conci (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Giovanni Aleotti (Bora-Hansgrohe), and Clément Russo (Arkéa-Samsic) on the list of riders forced to withdraw with COVID-19 so far during this Giro.
Evenepoel remained in the team hotel overnight and then set off for Belgium on…
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