Remco Evenepoel out of the Giro d’Italia with COVID-19

The Belgian superstar recaptured the pink jersey Sunday with a narrow victory in the time trial only to be diagnosed a few hours later. Rigoberto Urán is also out.

Photo: BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images

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Remco Evenepoel, who recaptured the pink jersey Sunday with victory in the stage 9 time trial, is out of the Giro d’Italia following a diagnosis for COVID-19.

The Soudal Quick-Step star beat Geraint Thomas by one second to win the stage and regain the maglia rosa, but hours later tested positive for coronavirus in a routine post-race test.

“I am really sorry to be leaving the race. As part of the team’s protocol, I took a routine test, which unfortunately was positive,” Evenepoel said. “My experience here has been really special and I was looking forward to competing over the next two weeks.

“I can’t thank enough the staff and the riders who sacrificed so much in preparation for the Giro. I will be cheering them on over the next two weeks.”

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The departure will turn the Giro upside down, and comes following a recent uptick of COVID-19 cases within the peloton.

Four other riders, including Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers), left the Giro with infections in the Giro’s first week, and a few others did not start due to positive tests.

Rigoberto Urán of EF Education-EasyPost is also out of the Giro on Sunday after testing positive following the time trial, team officials confirmed.

Evenepoel roared into the 2023 Giro as the five-star favorite, and delivered in the opening day time trial to capture the pink jersey.

Despite faltering a bit in Saturday’s explosive stage, Evenepoel rebounded Sunday to win his second stage of this Giro in a narrow victory to deny Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) the win by one second.

That pushed Evenepoel back into the pink jersey, but in what the team described as a routine health control ahead of Monday’s rest day, he returned a positive diagnosis. Team officials confirmed all the other Soudal Quick-Step riders and staff were tested and are negative.

Following the team’s health protocols, he is out of the race.

“It’s with a heavy heart that I have to announce that I will be leaving the Giro d’Italia due to COVID-19 after taking a routine test, which unfortunately was positive,” Evenepoel wrote on Twitter.

The pink jersey is suddenly up for grabs

Evenepoel promised he’d win Sunday’s time trial for his mother, left, but now he’s out of the race. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Evenepoel’s stunning exit will have immediate impacts on the Giro.

Not only did the race lose one of its top names and the prospects of a clash in the closing two weeks, the pink jersey will be unexpectedly up for grabs.

Based on Sunday’s performance, second-place rider Thomas will be poised to take over the pink jersey.

Following tradition, however, Thomas could refuse to race in the pink jersey when action resumes Tuesday due to the long-running custom of riders not wanting to take over a leader’s jersey due to a mishap for another racer.

Thomas moved into second place at 43 seconds back following his impressive ride Sunday. Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) remained third Sunday, now at 47 seconds back.

Without Evenepoel, Soudal Quick-Step will lose its lone captain, opening the race up to Ineos Grenadiers, with two riders in the top-5, and Jumbo-Visma.

Other teams, including Bora-Hansgrohe and UAE Team Emirates, will see their Giro hopes revived due to Evenepoel’s ill-timed health setback.

Evenepoel’s untimely exit will not only rob the race of what looked to be setting a fantastic back half of the Giro, but his departure will also stop Evenepoel in his tracks.

Following his breakout season in 2022 that included the world title, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and Belgium’s first grand tour victory in four decades with the Vuelta a España, Evenepoel put the Giro at the center of his ambitions.

It’s too early to say if Evenepoel might recover in time to race the Tour de France. Rivals and fans alike will be hoping he will not be too seriously impacted from the infection.

The Giro peloton will have time to digest the shocking news during Monday’s rest day, and will resume racing Tuesday with the 196km 10th stage from Scandiano to Viareggio.

The otherwise routine transition stage will take on a lot more significance as the Giro is unexpectedly a very different race.

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