COVID forces big changes to Jumbo-Visma’s Giro d’Italia roster

Three of Primož Roglič's teammates are out as positive tests continue to roil team lineups for the year's first Grand Tour.

Robert Gesink (center) and Tobias Foss (in orange) were due to start the Giro d’Italia but have tested positive for Covid (Photo © Cor Vos)

First, Trek-Segafredo’s Giulio Ciccone was forced to give up his Giro d’Italia campaign after contracting COVID-19. Now, the virus has upset Jumbo-Visma’s roster in a big way. The team announced on Tuesday that several riders had COVID and would be replaced.

In a tweet, the team noted that Wilco Kelderman, Tobias Foss, and Robert Gesink had all come down sick. Kelderman, who crashed out of Tirreno-Adriatico and lost weeks of training, had already been replaced in the roster by Sepp Kuss, while Foss and Gesink were replaced with Jos van Emden and Rohan Dennis, respectively.

It’s a tough blow for the team, which announced in January that Primož Roglič would target the Giro with Kelderman in support. Dennis, who can climb and time trial, is an able replacement for Foss. But he hasn’t raced since DNFing Stage 4 of Itzulia about a month ago. Van Emden is a powerhouse of a time triallist, but Jumbo may miss Gesink’s climbing legs and steady leadership experience in the race’s mountainous third week.

That will lead Roglič to rely heavily on Kuss, Jan Tratnik, and Koen Bouwman for mountain support. Fortunately, Bouwman seems to like Italy quite a lot, winning two stages of last year’s Giro.

The changes also underscore that COVID still absolutely lurks as a threat. In addition to Ciccone, Astana’s Alexey Lutsenko had to drop out of last week’s Tour of Romandie after testing positive (it’s at least the second time he’s had it, as he was forced to withdraw from the 2020 World Championships as well), and several others, including Cofidis’ Ion Izaguirre and Anthony Perez. 

Cycling’s latest flareup seems to have started around Liège-Bastogne-Liège, where Jumbo’s Sam Oomen and Tosh van der Sande didn’t start after testing positive, and Arkea-Samsic’s Warren Barguil DNF’d and then later tested positive. It also conjures some bad memories for the Giro, which in 2020 saw a number of positives and whole teams – including Jumbo – drop out. That race was run under special rules that forced those DNFs but which no longer apply. But teams are (thankfully) still not willing to race riders who recently tested positive.

In short, it’s only Tuesday: more roster changes might come.

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