Pogacar’s Tour de France dominance challenged by COVID-19

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UAE Team Emirates riders, right, set the tone for leader Slovenian Tadej Pogacar, wearing the general classification leader’s yellow jersey, as they climbed the ninth stage of the Tour de France cyclist over 193 kilometers (119.9 miles) with departure in Aigle, Switzerland and arrival in Châtel les Portes du Soleil, France, Sunday July 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

PA

The coronavirus may well be the biggest threat to Tadej Pogacar’s Tour de France dominance.

The two-time defending champion from Slovenia has been the dominant rider in the peloton since the start of the race, but the coronavirus is taking its toll on his team.

Pogacar lost another teammate on Tuesday when George Bennett was sent off ahead of Stage 10 following a positive coronavirus test.

Bennett, a New Zealander who supported Pogacar with the UAE-Emirates team and had to help him cross the mountains, was tested on the rest day on Monday after showing symptoms of the coronavirus, the doctor said. Adrian Rotunno team.

“He . . . gave a positive result,” Rotunno said. “Therefore, it will not start today.”

UAE-Emirates team officials later announced that Rafal Majka had also tested positive for the virus but remained in contention.

“Rafal Majka. . . returned a positive result this morning,” Rotunno said. “He is asymptomatic and his PCR analysis revealed he was at very low risk of infectiousness.”

The UAE-Emirates team said it reported Majka’s case to the International Cycling Union (UCI) medical team, which cleared the rider to start the stage.

Majka is a strong climber and it will be a big loss for Pogacar if her servant is finally forced to retire as the peloton prepares to face two daunting alpine stages, including a finish in L’Alpe d’Huez on Thursday.

Bennett was the second runner from the United Arab Emirates to quit the race due to testing positive after Vegard Stake Laengen last week.

Bennett finished 32nd overall.

His withdrawal was announced a day after the UCI said no rider had tested positive for the virus in mandatory testing of the whole peloton before Monday.

The BikeExchange-Jayco team also announced the withdrawal of a rider on Tuesday after Australian Luke Durbridge tested positive ahead of Stage 10.

“Durbridge has very mild symptoms,” the team said.

The peloton tackled a 148 kilometer course from Morzine to Megève in the Alps on Tuesday. Pogacar retained the yellow jersey with an 11-second lead over Lennard Kämna. Jonas Vingaard was third, 39 seconds off the pace.

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