Juan Ayuso has tested positive for Covid but will continue racing at the Vuelta a España, his team have said.
The UAE Team Emirates rider tested positive on a lateral flow test, a result which was then confirmed by a PCR, but will continue riding due to a low risk of infection.
The 19-year-old is currently high on general classification at his first Grand Tour, in fifth place, trailing race leader Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) by 4-53.
In a statement released to the media ahead of stage 13, Dr Adrian Rotunno, UAE’s medical director, said: “As per our internal protocols Juan Ayuso was tested for Covid-19 and returned a positive result this morning. He is asymptomatic and analysing his PCR found he had a very low risk of infectivity, similar to cases such as we saw at this years Tour de France.
“We have made the decision in consultation with medical representatives from the race organisation and the UCI.
“We are aware of Juan’s clinical picture and are closely monitoring his situation.”
During the Tour, Bob Jungels (AG2R Citroën) and Rafał Majka (UAE Team Emirates) both tested positive for Covid but were allowed to continue after being judged to be not particularly infectious.
Teams used a Cycle Threshold (CT) score to determine the amount of viral particles in a rider’s system; the higher the CT score, the less contagious they were.
The Vuelta’s race director, Javier Guillén, confirmed in an interview with the Spanish host broadcaster RTVE earlier this week that in the event of a positive test teams confirm the result via a PCR test, and if the viral load is low enough, the affected rider can continue to race.
But Guillén added: “The problem is that when the positive is detected in the morning, there’s not the time to get the PCR results before the stage starts. We would have to let them start without knowing the viral load and still they [teams] are not willing to do that.”
This is what might make Ayuso’s case different from others sent home from the race, like Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers), who said that he was “asymptomatic and feeling well”. He was ninth on general classification when he left the race.
23 riders have left the Vuelta due to Covid, including stage winner Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) and GC rider Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco). Race organisers will be hoping that the pandemic does not continue to affect the overall standings.