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Two team staff members - but no riders - test positive for COVID-19 ahead of tomorrow's Vuelta start

Organisers have unveiled mobile lab capable of conducting hundreds of coronavirus tests a day

The UCI and the organisers of the Vuelta a Espana have confirmed that no riders have tested positive for coronavirus ahead of the Spanish Grand Tour starting tomorrow – but two team staff members, one from Bahrain-McLaren, the other from Team Sunweb, have done so.

In a joint statement issued this afternoon, world cycling’s governing body and race organisers Unipublic, which is owned by Tour de France organisers ASO, said:

In line with the health protocol of the Vuelta Ciclista a España, established as part of the “rules to be followed for the resumption of the road cycling season in the context of the coronavirus pandemic” drawn up by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), and in compliance with the measures of the Spanish Health Ministry, all teams (riders and staff) were tested on 18 October. The event starts on 20 October.

A total of 498 tests were carried out:

No rider tested positive for Covid-19;

Two team staff members, one from Bahrain-McLaren and the other from Team Sunweb, tested positive for Covid-19; they were referred to their respective team doctors who organised isolation measures and took necessary action, in compliance with the World Health Organisation (WHO) rules, concerning contact cases.

Unipublic this weekend unveiled a 14-metre long trailer that will house a 14-metre-long mobile COVID-19 lab that will enable PCR tests to be carried out on everyone within the ‘Race Bubble’ – riders, team staff, and a limited number of people from the organisation who will have frequent, close contact with riders.

Unipublic said: “18 health professionals will work in the mobile lab, and will be responsible for guaranteeing the health security of La Vuelta, with regards to the pandemic, throughout the entire competition.

“This multidiscipline team will be made up doctors, medical practitioners who specialise in clinical analysis, chemists, biologists, biochemists, advanced clinical analysis specialists, lab technicians, technical health personnel, an IT expert and technical lab support staff.

“The Biorama and Bioser mobile lab, financed exclusively through private funds, is equipped to carry out COVID PCR tests as well as rapid immunological tests.

“ It features three thermo cyclers to carry out the COVID PCR test and three booths in order to ensure that the analysis process is 100% safe, thus avoiding the risk of contamination of both the sample and of the lab technician performing the test.

“This impressive mobile lab can certify the health status of between 700-750 participants per day, and the results will be obtained in just 24 hours. The lab equipment and rapid results will allow the analysis of up to 1000 samples per day, if necessary.

“With this initiative, Bioser and Biorama hope not only to contribute to the security and wellbeing of all the riders, but also to the correct development of the competition.”

The race starts tomorrow in the Basque coastal town Irun, which lies on the French border, and is scheduled to comprise 18 stages following the decision in April to cancel the planned first three stages in the Netherlands.

Spain reported 15,186 new cases on Thursday, its highest figure since the pandemic began, and 65 per cent more than the peak figure of 9.159 recorded at the height of the first wave back in March.

Meanwhile, organisers of the Giro d’Italia have confirmed that more than 500 saliva antigen tests undertaken this week have all returned a negative result for COVID-19.

Tomorrow’s second rest day will see the more rigorous PCR tests carried out, as happened a week ago, resulting in eight positive results including Steven Kruijswijk, whose Jumbo-Visma team left the race, as did Mitchelton-Scott where four staff members tested positive for coronavirus.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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