ROME (Reuters) - The Giro d’Italia was on the brink of cancellation on Tuesday after five teams were hit by COVID-19 cases on the first rest day, with two of them pulling out of the three-week grand tour 12 days before the finish in Milan.
The Mitchelton-Scott team withdrew after four staff members tested positive for the coronavirus following top rider Simon Yates pulling out last week. Jumbo-Visma, whose leader Steven Kruisjwijk tested positive, said they would not start the 10th stage on Tuesday.
A Team Sunweb rider, one staff member from Ineos-Grenadiers and AG2R-La Mondiale also returned positive tests, organizers RCS said.
RCS, in a joint statement with the International Cycling Union (UCI), said the teams’ doctors had ordered "isolation measures”.
Sunweb’s Michael Matthews had tested positive and sports director Luke Roberts said the Australian was asymptomatic.
"Obviously it’s really disappointing to lose one of the riders,” Roberts told reporters. "We’re in with a fight for the GC (General Classification) and Michael was and would have been a great help to us.
"Nevertheless, that’s bike racing and we’ll continue to chase after our goals and I hope we can make it to Milan.”
Jumbo-Visma said they had pulled out of the race for the safety of everyone involved.
"We thought it was the most responsible decision because we’ve all been close to Steven,” sports director Addy Engels said.
Mitchelton-Scott said the team were notified of the four positive results for staff members from tests done on Sunday.
"Unfortunately, we received the news on Monday evening that we have returned a number of positive COVID-19 results to members of our staff after our third round of tests in three days,” the team’s general manager Brent Copeland said.
"As a social responsibility to our riders and staff, the peloton and the race organization we have made the clear decision to withdraw from the Giro d’Italia.
"Thankfully, those impacted remain asymptomatic or with mild symptoms.”