Soudal-QuickStep manager Patrick Lefebvre tweeted that Remco Evenpoel’s decision to withdraw from the Giro d’Italia due to Covid-19 was “not a ‘9-5’ job”.
On the same social media channel, Lefevre was commenting to Wielerflits journalist Raymond Kerkhoff on whether drivers should be released if they have no or few symptoms of Covid-19.
“Yes, Raymond,” Lefebvre replied. You never know what happens under the skin [internally]. This is not a 9-5 job. “Zero Risk.”
The 23-year-old world champion is one of the favorites to win the Grand Tour and opened his account by dominating the Stage 1 time trial. After an impressive first week, Cissena won the time trial and took back the pink jersey, but looked tired after the ride.
“I am very sad to leave the competition,” Evenepoel said in a statement released by the team on Sunday night. “As part of the team’s protocol, I took a routine test, which was unfortunately positive.
Lefebvre’s insistence that there should be no concerns for the team when a rider tests positive was echoed in comments a few months ago by long-time Sudal-Fast Action doctor Yvonne van Mol.
L’Equipe newspaper quoted the team’s doctor as saying that due to the capacity of COVID-19 to leave long-term effects and the lack of deep knowledge about the subject, if the virus appears recently, it is better to be safe than sorry.
“We don’t know the consequences of their cardiovascular system, and our doctors’ job is to protect drivers with COVID-19 from racing,” he said.
“We have not. [long-term] To be sure that this will not affect their health. It’s a precaution.”
Soudal-QuickStep said all of the team’s riders and staff in Italy were tested for Covid-19 on Sunday as part of a pre-rest day of practice. Evenepoel is the only component of the Soudal-QuickStep Giro journey to have tested positive.
Evenepoel is the latest rider to fall victim to Covid-19 at the 2023 Giro d’Italia.
EF Education-EasyPost’s Rigoberto Uran tested positive earlier on Sunday, becoming the sixth rider to withdraw from the race. Evenepoel and Uranus are joined by Filippo Gana (Ineos Grenadier), Nicola Conchi (Alpesin-Desseunch), Giovanni Aleotti (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Clement Russo (Arcaea-Samsic) on the list of riders forced to withdraw with Covid-19. This Giro.
Evenepoel stayed in the team hotel overnight and drove to Belgium with a mechanic on Monday morning. The journey to Belgium takes over 12 hours.
Evenepoel’s COVID-19 positive probably explained his poor performance during Saturday’s hilly stage for Fossombrone and Sunday’s test for Cessna.
Remko’s parents, Patrick and Agna, who attended the race on Sunday with Evenepoel’s wife, Owmi, said they noticed something was not right with Evenepoel during the time trial.
“Had he done nothing wrong, he would have continued the trial when he got to the first checkpoint,” his father said.
“Agna already said on Saturday”, when Evenepoel had already lost some time on the last climb, “we didn’t like the look, and knowing Remko will be difficult with that.” But I’m sure he’ll be back very quickly.”