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Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl is in a cold sweat as it monitors the condition of Kasper Asgreen.
The big-diesel Dane tested positive for COVID-19, ruling him out of a season debut at this week’s Tour de la Provence. It’s a ping that throws a sharp cobblestone speed bump into his road toward the “opening weekend” of the classics.
“Unfortunately Kasper Asgreen will not begin his season at the Tour de la Provence anymore after he tested positive for COVID-19,” read a message from the team Monday. “Everyone at Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl wishes Kasper a fast recovery.”
Sport director Rik van Slyke confirmed to VeloNews on Tuesday that Asgreen isn’t currently displaying symptoms. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t headaches in the team bubble as the Dane misses out on key tune-up time less than three weeks before the classics get under way.
“These early races like Provence, Algarve are really important for the classics riders to see if the winter training was ok, if they were working well,” van Slyke told VeloNews.
“They’re a big first test before the classics to see how far their condition is and what is their level to other riders. From there, they can make their training more intense or more relaxed heading into the classics. It’s a really important way for them to measure themselves against others.”
Having its classics captain out of commission less than three weeks before the highly prized “opening weekend” of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne could see Quick-Step back to the drawing board as it looks to land an early dig into the flanks of rivals such as Wout van Aert and Tom Pidcock.
As reigning champion of both the Tour of Flanders and the E3 Saxo Bank Classic, Asgreen is at the forefront of Quick-Step’s cobblestone ambitions.
— Tour de la Provence (@TourProvenceOFF) January 17, 2022
If the 27-year-old comes down with symptoms in the coming days, the team will be scrambling to re-plan rosters and hope for Asgreen’s health. And if he stays free of fever, there are still potential impacts down the road.
“When a rider is positive it can completely destroy the first part of a season,” van Slyke said.
“You can have them build up from five-six weeks, then one week goes out, and that all changes. If they get really high fever and they need weeks to recover, then you have to build up all over. And if it’s a false positive, they miss the competition and that sets them back too.”
For now, Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl will wait with bated breath and hope for the best.
“We will see if he does opening weekend day-by-day. If he cannot build up his training as planned then we have to change everything if his condition isn’t up to the plan,” van Slyke said.
“We’ll have to see if he can keep training or if he’s in bed with a fever. For the moment it looks like he’s not getting sick. All we can do now is wait and see.”
In compliance with pro cycling’s Health & COVID-19 procedure, we have withdrawn from #VCV2022 ahead of stage 4, after 3 positive COVID-19 self-tests in the team this morning. Thank you, @VueltaCV and @UCI_cycling for supporting us in this decision.
— Team DSM (@TeamDSM) February 5, 2022
Asgreen tested positive just one week after Team DSM, Jumbo-Visma, and BikeExchange-Jayco all pulled out of the Volta a la Communitat Valenciana due to the pandemic piercing their bubble.
Also Tuesday it was discovered that Tadej Pogačar was a victim of the virus as he builds toward a season debut at UAE Tour. Nairo Quintana also caught the virus pre-season, though he’s expected to start this week’s Tour de la Provence.
Just like the cobblestones, COVID isn’t going anywhere any time soon. And it continues to cause chaos.