Riders could quit unsafe Giro after 17 police escort officers test positive

Riders at the Giro d’Italia are considering a walkout after 17 further positive Covid-19 tests

Riders at the Giro d’Italia are considering a walkout after 17 further positive Covid-19 tests on Thursday, all of them involving police motorcycle escort officers at the E-bike event which accompanies the men’s race.

Earlier this week, two teams, Mitchelton-Scott and Jumbo-Visma, withdrew from the race after positive tests, while pre-race favourite Simon Yates abandoned last weekend after developing positive symptoms. The police escort riders who tested positive were not part of the main race bubble, but Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) said he and his team-mates were nevertheless “starting to feel unsafe” and were considering a mass walkout.

“I have to be honest, my head is not really in the race after the news of the 17 infected police officers,” De Gendt said ahead of the start of Stage 12 in Cesenatico, which was eventually won by Ineos Grenadiers’ Jhonatan Narvaez from the break.

“Things are going badly in this Giro. We have been discussing with the riders in the team for 20 minutes about whether or not to start, because we are starting to feel unsafe. There have been more than 10 cases and yesterday I heard several riders coughing. It’s the cold season, but in the long run you can’t concentrate anymore.”

Some riders have claimed the Tour de France was safer. “I thought it was much safer in the Tour. I never felt unsafe there at any point,” De Gendt said.

Race director Mauro Vegni told RAI that everything possible was being done to bring the race to its conclusion in Milan on Oct 25.

“We absolutely want the Giro d’Italia to make it to Milan,” Vegni said. “I’d say at any price, excluding any major or medical problems. We knew holding the Giro in October was problematic; we’re doing all we can to make it to Milan with all the doubts and challenges.”

Meanwhile, it appears increasingly likely that the medical tribunal of former Team Sky and British Cycling doctor, Richard Freeman, will run into 2021.

Freeman, who is accused by the General Medical Council of ordering testosterone to the national velodrome in May 2011 “knowing or believing” it was intended for a rider, was originally meant to have his fitness-to-practise tribunal heard last spring.

However, it now looks as if the hearing could run into a third year after yet more delays.

The tribunal was held in private on Thursday after Team Sky and British Cycling complained about confidential medical data relating to riders’ blood tests being potentially leaked into the public domain.

The hearing was adjourned until next Thursday, when Freeman’s cross-examination can continue.

If the hearing is not finished by Nov 26 there is a chance it might not start up again until next spring.

Mary O’Rourke QC, the barrister defending Freeman – who also represented former Chelsea doctor Eva Carneiro in her claim for constructive dismissal against the club – has another case starting just days after this one is due to end.

There is a slight possibility the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service, which decides cases for the GMC, could postpone that hearing in order to allow this one to finish.

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