GIOVINAZZO, ITALY (AFP) - British rider Simon Yates has withdrawn from the three-week Giro d'Italia cycling race after testing positive for Covid-19, his team Mitchelton-Scott said on Saturday (Oct 10).
He becomes the first rider to test positive at a Grand Tour although four cases were found among team members - none of them competitors - during the Tour de France.
Team leader Yates, who won the Vuelta in 2018, was 21st in the overall standings ahead of Saturday's eighth stage from Giovinazzo in Puglia with overall victory still potentially withing his grasp.
"Simon's health remains our main concern and, thankfully, his symptoms remain very mild and he is otherwise in good health," team doctor Matteo Beltemacchi said in a statement.
Yates tested positive after developing a slight fever on Friday, Mitchelton-Scott said. A second test confirmed the positive result.
The 28-year-old was isolated in his room during the process and was being transported by ambulance to begin a period of quarantine, they added.
But the team said its remaining riders all tested negative and had been cleared to take part in the race.
"All other riders and staff have returned negative results and have been cleared to continue the race, but as a precautionary measure we will monitor the situation closely and undergo further testing in the coming days," Dr Beltemacchi said.
Yates's positive raises inevitable questions about how he caught the virus and whether he passed it on to others.
The scare follows a largely successful Tour which was moved from its traditional slot to September because of the coronavirus but passed off with few cases.
As well as four non-riding team members, Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme was forced to leave the race to quarantine for a week after he also tested positive.
Yates, twin brother of team-mate Adam who is not riding the Giro, was 3min 52sec behind Portuguese leader Joao Almeida after the seventh stage to Brindisi.
Since the return of professional cycling in August, Simon Yates has justified his team leader status by placing third in the Tour of Poland and becoming the first Briton to win the Tirreno-Adriatico.
As on the Tour, the Giro has been carrying out routine Covid-19, but teams have the freedom to carry out additional security measures themselves.
Dr Beltemacchi added: "Simon displayed a very mild temperature on Friday evening during our routine temperature checks, which have been completed three times per day during the course of the Giro d'Italia.
"Following the team's RaceSafe Covid-19 policy, he was isolated in his room and we immediately requested a rapid test using the services offering by the RCS, which has returned positive."
Yates has extended his contract with Mitchelton to 2022 and will be parting ways with his brother, who leaves for Ineos next season.