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

109th Tour de France 2022 - Stage 10
Getty Images
9 Comments

MEGEVE, France – The coronavirus could well be the biggest threat to Tadej Pogacar’s dominance at the Tour de France.

The two-time defending champion from Slovenia has been the dominant rider of the peloton since the start of the race, but the coronavirus is playing havoc within his team.

Pogacar lost another teammate on Tuesday when George Bennett was forced out before Stage 10 following a positive coronavirus test.

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

“He . . . returned a positive result,” Rotunno said. “Therefore he will not start today.”

UAE-Emirates Team officials later announced that Rafal Majka also tested positive for the virus but remained in the race.

“Rafal Majka . . . returned a positive result this morning,” Rotunno said. “He is asymptomatic and analyzing his PCR found he had a very low risk of infectivity.”

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

Majka is a strong climber and it will be a big loss for Pogacar if his domestique is eventually forced to abandon as the peloton prepares to tackle two daunting Alpine stages including a finish at L’Alpe d’Huez on Thursday.

Bennett was the second rider from the UAE-Emirates to leave the race because of a positive test after Vegard Stake Laengen last week.

Bennett was 32nd in the general classification.

His withdrawal was announced a day after the UCI said no riders tested positive for the virus during mandatory testing of the entire peloton before Monday.

Team BikeExchange-Jayco also announced the withdrawal of a rider on Tuesday after Australia’s Luke Durbridge tested positive before Stage 10.

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

The peloton tackled a 148-kilometer route on Tuesday from Morzine to Megeve in the Alps. Pogacar kept the yellow jersey with an 11-second overall lead over Lennard Kamna. Jonas Vingegaard was in third place, 39 seconds off the pace.

Davide Rebellin dies after hit by truck while training

Getty Images
3 Comments

MILAN — Italian cyclist Davide Rebellin, one of the sport’s longest-serving professionals, died after being struck by a truck while training. He was 51.

Rebellin was riding near the town of Montebello Vicentino in northern Italy when he was hit by a truck near a motorway junction. The vehicle did not stop, although Italian media reported that the driver may have been unaware of the collision.

Local police are working to reconstruct the incident and find the driver.

Rebellin had only retired from professional cycling last month, bringing to an end a career that had spanned 30 years. He last competed for Work Service-Vitalcare-Dynatek and the UCI Continental team posted a tribute on its social media accounts.

“Dear Davide, keep pedaling, with the same smile, the same enthusiasm and the same passion as always,” the Italian team said. “This is not how we imagined the future together and it is not fair to have to surrender so suddenly to your tragic absence.”

“To your family, your loved ones, your friends and all the enthusiasts who, like us, are crying for you right now, we just want to say that we imagine you on a bicycle, looking for new roads, new climbs and new challenges even up there, in the sky.”

Rebellin’s successes included victories at Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico as well as winning a stage in the 1996 edition of the Giro d’Italia, which he also led for six stages.

Rebellin won silver in the road race at the 2008 Olympic Games, but he was later stripped of his medal and banned for two years after a positive doping test. He had denied wrongdoing.

CAS upholds Nairo Quintana DQ from Tour de France for opioid use

Getty Images
17 Comments

LAUSANNE, Switzerland – The disqualification of two-time Tour de France runner-up Nairo Quintana from his sixth place in the 2022 race for misuse of an opioid was confirmed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

CAS said its judges dismissed Quintana’s appeal and agreed with the International Cycling Union that the case was a medical matter rather than a doping rules violation. He will not be banned.

The court said the judges ruled “the UCI’s in-competition ban on tramadol was for medical rather than doping reasons and was therefore within the UCI’s power and jurisdiction.”

Traces of the synthetic painkiller tramadol were found in two dried blood spot samples taken from the Colombian racer five days apart in July, the UCI previously said.

Quintana’s case is among the first to rely on the dried blood spot (DBS) method of collecting samples which the World Anti-Doping Agency approved last year.

Tramadol was banned in 2019 from use at cycling races because of potential side effects. They include the risk of addiction, dizziness, drowsiness and loss of attention.

Quintana finished second in the Tour de France in 2013 and 2015, won both times by Chris Froome. He won the 2014 Giro d’Italia.