GIOVINAZZO, Italy (Reuters) - The Giro d'Italia was thrown into turmoil when Briton Simon Yates pulled out on Saturday after testing positive for the new coronavirus one week into the three-week race.
Yates, one of the pre-race favourites, returned two positive test following Friday's seventh stage after displaying "a very mild" fever during a routine check, his Mitchelton-Scott team said.
The rest of the team subsequently underwent tests and all members were negative, with organisers RCS allowing the Australian outfit to continue the race, Mitchelton-Scott said.
"Yates developed very mild symptoms in the hours following yesterday’s seventh stage. The Mitchelton-Scott medical team immediately requested a rapid test which indicated a positive result. A second, RT-PCR, test was later taken, which has confirmed the positive result," the team said in a statement.
"The 28-year-old was isolated in his single room during the process and is being safely transported by organised ambulance for a period of quarantine where the team can offer its best possible care. His symptoms remain very mild.
"With the health of staff and riders the highest priority, the remaining Mitchelton-Scott riders and staff have also undergone a rapid test, each returning a negative result. They have been given clearance by the RCS to continue racing and, as a precaution, will undergo further testing in the coming days."
Yates, who won the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race in the lead-up to the Giro, was 21st overall, 3:52 behind overall leader Joao Almeida of Portugal after losing more than three minutes in the first mountain stage.
Riders on the Giro stay in a biosecure bubble when not on the road, just as they did on the Tour de France, which finished on Sept. 20. No riders tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 while on the French tour.
On the Tour, two positive tests in a team within one week would trigger the ejection of the outfit from the race but no such rule was put in place on the Italian grand tour, which started from Sicily on Oct. 3.
Italy, which hosted the rescheduled world championships earlier this month, has seen a recent rise in coronavirus cases, with a post-lockdown record 5,372 people infected registered on Friday.
Elite racing resumed in August after a four-and-a-half month hiatus, but the recent resurgence of COVID-19 in Europe has forced local authorities and organisers to cancel races, such as the Netherlands' Amstel Gold Race, which had been scheduled for Saturday, and Paris-Roubaix, the "Monument" classic that was due to be raced on Oct. 25.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot in Paris; Editing by William Mallard)