Tadej Pogacar sees another teammate drop out of Tour de France with Covid

New Zealand's George Bennett becomes latest UAE Team Emirates rider to withdraw

UAE Team Emirates' George Bennett during Stage 9 of the Tour de France before the New Zealand rider tested postive for Covid-19. AFP
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Defending Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar has seen another teammate drop out of the race after testing positive to Covid-19 on Tuesday.

UAE Team Emirates had already lost Vegard Stake Laengen on Saturday to the coronavirus and now New Zealand's George Bennett has become the second of Pogacar's team to pull out.

There were also unconfirmed reports that Rafal Majka, another key mountain support rider for Pogacar, had tested positive but with a low viral load.

The loss of Bennett reduces the UAE Team Emirates squad to five support riders for Tour leader Pogacar as the race heads into the Alpine stages and with nearly two weeks of racing left to go.

Bennett was tested on the rest day Monday after showing symptoms of the coronavirus, their UAE Emirates team doctor Adrian Rotunno said.

“Per our protocol he was tested for Covid-19 and returned a positive result,” Rotunno said. “Therefore he will not start today.” Bennett was 32nd in the general classification.

His withdrawal was announced a day after the International Cycling Union said no riders tested positive for the virus during mandatory testing of the entire peloton on Sunday night.

That good news appears short-lived after a second rider – making it five in total since the start of the race on July 1 – tested positive on Tuesday.

Bike Exchange-Jayco's Australian rider Luke Durbridge is also now longer in the running.

Tour de France Stage 9 gallery

“Unfortunately Luke Durbridge has tested positive for Covid-19 this morning. Durbridge has very mild symptoms and will not start today’s stage 10,” the Australian outfit said in a statement.

French riders Geoffrey Bouchard and Guillaume Martin have also been forced out of the race by the virus.

On Monday, Pogacar stated that any racer with a significant viral load should not be allowed to continue in the race.

“If you test positive, above the threshold of 33 points or whatever, that means you are really infectious and it's not really good for your teammates or for the staff to be around,” he said.

“The group is always in close contact with us, so I think it's best if you're positive you go home. It doesn't matter if you have the yellow jersey or not, it's not safe for others, it can affect everyone's health, especially when we race every day in such tough conditions. If you have the virus, it's not really healthy.”

The Slovenian leads second placed Jonas Vingegaard, of Team Jumbo-Visma, by 39 seconds in the general classification going into Tuesday Stage 10.

Stage 9 on Sunday was won by Bob Jungels of Luxembourg, with Pogacar and Danish rider Vingegaard both picking up three seconds on their rivals.

Updated: July 12, 2022, 12:25 PM