Simon Yates has been forced to withdraw from the Vuelta a España ahead of stage 11 after he tested positive for Covid this morning.
The BikeExchange-Jayco rider was lying in fifth overall on general classification after the stage 10 time trial, which he impressed on, conceding 1-42 to race leader Remco Evenepoel.
The former Vuelta winner would have been hoping to impress in the final week and move up on the rankings as the race heads back to the mountains. His final result might have also helped secure the future of the team.
His team reported that Yates contracted mild Covid symptoms overnight and was then tested on Wednesday morning, a test that came back positive. BikeExchange’s policy on the virus means that he has been sent home; in a statement they said that further testing would be carried out among the team and staff to ensure their safety.
Dani Castillo, the team doctor, said in the statement: “During the night our rider Simon Yates had some COVID-19 symptoms with a light fever and body aches. We carried out a COVID-19 test this morning and unfortunately, he has returned a positive test result, and will therefore not be taking to the start line of today’s 11th stage, with rider health and wellbeing our priority.”
The Briton is the latest high-profile rider to be sent home due to testing positive for Covid, and the 16th of the race overall, if reports are to be believed. On Tuesday, Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe), the winner of two stages so far, and Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) both tested positive.
Four more riders: José Herrada (Cofidis), Harry Sweeny and Jarrad Drizners (both Lotto Soudal), and Mathias Norsgaard (Movistar) all tested positive for Covid on Tuesday morning too.
The latest Covid positive will serve to raise fears of the virus rampaging through the peloton, with multiple teams affected.
Yates’ withdrawal while high up on general classification may also have an impact beyond this race. Finishing in fifth place overall would have given BikeExchange-Jayco 380 UCI points, a sum which might be crucial given the narrow gaps between teams facing relegation from the WorldTour.
At the end of this year, WorldTour licences for the next three years will be given out to the 18 teams who have claimed the most UCI points over the past three seasons. At present, both Lotto Soudal and Israel-Premier Tech, two current WorldTour teams, face relegation, while Alpecin-Deceuninck and Arkéa Samsic would be promoted.
There are currently only 619 points between Movistar, BikeExchange, EF Education-EasyPost and Cofidis in the four spots above relegation; Movistar are 288 points ahead of Lotto Soudal, who currently are in the red zone.
With the sudden absence of Yates’ points haul from this race, things might get a bit sketchy for BikeExchange at the bottom.