COVID-19 at the Vuelta a España: Van Poppel and Buitrago the latest in a growing list of riders

Rate of positives close to double that of the Tour de France.

Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

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There may still be a week and a half to go in this Vuelta a España, but a total of 23 riders have already exited the race due to COVID-19, more than during the entire Tour de France.

Boy van Poppel (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) and Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain-Victorious) were the latest to withdraw, with both testing positive for the virus prior to Thursday’s stage 12.

On Wednesday Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco) and Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers) had both withdrawn while in the top ten, with the duo sitting fifth and ninth until that point.

The latest abandons come eight days after the first rider withdrew following the start of the race, Trek-Segafredo’s Daan Hoole. He exited before stage 5, with Jan Hirt (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) going out the following day.

There has been at least one withdrawal every day since. Jaakko Hanninen and Andrea Vendrame (both Ag2r-Citroën) left before Friday’s stage 7, and prior to Saturday’s race Team DSM duo Nikias Arndt and Mark Donovan and Anthony Delaplace (Arkéa-Samsic) departed the race.

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Sunday saw Wout Poels (Bahrain-Victorious) and Peter Serry (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) exit, and then on Monday’s rest day Mathias Norsgaard (Movistar), Jose Herrada (Cofidis), plus Harry Sweeny and Jarrad Drizners (both Lotto Soudal) tested positive.

Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) and Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe), the rider sitting second overall in the points classification, were both non-starters in Tuesday’s stage 10 time trial.

Jumbo-Visma confirmed to VeloNews on Wednesday morning that Edoardo Affini’s withdrawal before the time trial was also related to COVID-19.

Yates and Sivakov were the first GC riders to go out, with both announced as positive before Wednesday’s stage 11. They had been fifth and ninth overall.

Also exiting on Wednesday were the Equipo Kern Pharma trio of Roger Adrià, Hector Carretero and Pau Miquel Delgado. The absence of Buitrago and van Poppel on Thursday further raises that to 23.

This number of cases over the span of nine stages is concerning for the race and its participants. It represents a much faster rate of COVID-19 transmission than at the Tour de France.

A total of 17 riders tested positive for the virus across the whole 24-day timeframe of the Tour.

This may prompt the UCI and La Vuelta race organizers to further tighten up measures. On Tuesday, Sam Bennett spoke about a number of possible transmission routes, including the close proximity of fans on mountain stages, two flights taken because of mid-race transfers, two transfer buses filled with riders plus a shared tent for changing after one stage with 80 unmasked riders.

Meanwhile Thomas De Gendt has argued against affected riders exiting the race, and also against screening. “We might finish with 100 guys if we keep going like this. As long as you are not sick then you can stay in the race. Next year I would like it that we are not tested anymore, unless you are really sick.”

Covid positives and exits at Vuelta a España:

    1. Daan Hoole (Trek-Segafredo) DNS stage 5
    2. Jan Hirt (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) DNS stage 6
    3. Jaakko Hanninen (Ag2r-Citroën) DNS stage 7
    4. Andrea Vendrame (both Ag2r-Citroën) DNS stage 7
    5. Nikias Arndt (Team DSM) DNS stage 8
    6. Mark Donovan (both Team DSM) DNS stage 8
    7. Anthony Delaplace (Arkéa-Samsic) DNS stage 8
    8. Wout Poels (Bahrain-Victorious) DNS stage 9
    9. Peter Serry (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) DNS stage 9
    10. Mathias Norsgaard (Movistar) DNS stage 10
    11. Jose Herrada (Cofidis) DNS stage 10
    12. Harry Sweeny (Lotto Soudal) DNS stage 10
    13. Jarrad Drizners (Lotto Soudal) DNS stage 10
    14. Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) DNS stage 10
    15. Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) DNS stage 10
    16. Edoardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma) DNS stage 10
    17. Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco) DNS stage 11
    18. Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers) DNS stage 11
    19. Roger Adrià (Equipo Kern Pharma) DNS stage 11
    20. Hector Carretero (Equipo Kern Pharma) DNS stage 11
    21. Pau Miquel Delgado (Equipo Kern Pharma) DNS stage 11
    22. Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain-Victorious) DNS stage 12
    23. Boy van Poppel (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) DNS stage 12

Note: Burgos-BH started La Vuelta one rider short when Manuel Peñalver tested positive prior to the stage 1 TTT.

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