'Putting on a show:' Sagan lifts virus-hit Giro d'Italia

Tortoreto (Italy) (AFP) –


Peter Sagan turned on the style with a solo finish in the Giro d'Italia's 10th stage on Tuesday after two teams, Mitchelton and Jumbo-Visma, were forced out of the race around Italy because of positive coronavirus tests.

Sagan -- one of the most successful riders in the peloton with three world titles -- ended his winless drought going back to the fifth stage of the 2019 Tour de France at Colmar.

"Finally I did it. I won with my style, putting on a show!" said the Bora-Hansgrohe rider of a stage the 30-year-old had dominated.

Sagan's performance was a boost for a race reeling after eight positive COVID-19 tests during Monday's rest day, resulted in two teams packing their bags.

"We're trying to keep the situation under control," insisted Giro race director Mauro Vegni.

"This morning, all the teams that have had positive cases have undergone new quick tests and we will do the same the day after tomorrow.

"So far we have done almost 1,500 tests and it is impossible to do more."

Two riders tested positive, Dutch contender Steven Kruijswijk of the Jumbo team, who finished third in the 2019 Tour de France, along with Sunweb's Australian Michael Matthews, with the remaining positives among team staff.

Mitchelton had already been hit by Saturday's withdrawal of Briton Simon Yates, their lead rider, who became the first cyclist to test positive for Covid-19 at a Grand Tour.

The announcement of Jumbo's withdrawal was another blow for Kruijswijk, a top-five finisher in all three Grand Tours, who missed this year's Tour de France with a knee injury.

"Within the team we take a lot of measures to avoid contamination," said the 33-year-old Dutchman.

"I just feel fit. I can't believe I got it. It is a very big disappointment to get this news. It is a pity that I have to leave the Giro this way."

Team Sunweb added that the now-quarantined Matthews was also "asymptomatic, feels healthy".

- 'Bubble' criticised -

But Jumbo's Dutch rider Jos van Emden questioned the impermeability of the health "bubble" put in place by organisers.

"In the hotel buffets, there were people who were not part of the bubble," van Emden told The Cycling Podcast.

The positive tests throw into doubt the future of the three-week Giro, which now has 21 teams, with nearly two weeks to run until the finish on October 25 in Milan.

Although Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme and four staff members from four different teams tested positive, last month's Grande Boucle finished without any riders failing tests.

"That's how the situation is, we can't change anything," said Sagan.

"It's difficult times for everyone, not just riders.

"I think the organisers are doing their best to protect us in the bubble."

On Tuesday, the peloton, down to 145 riders from the 176 who started the race in Sicily on October 3, headed out from Lanciano for the 177km run north along the Adriatic Sea coastline to Tortoreto Lido.

Slovak Sagan led from the front, finally shaking off his rivals 12km from the finish line to cross alone 19sec ahead of American Brandon McNulty with Portugal's pink jersey wearer Joao Almeida third at 23sec.

"We were in the breakaway all day, I had good legs, and went solo on the uphill before descending with care in the downhill and then full gas in the final kilometres," said Sagan, after completing his Grand Tour slam of stage wins in France, Spain and Italy.

Almeida hailed "a good day" after the Deceuninck-Quick Step rider gained four seconds in the overall standings on second-placed Dutchman Wilco Kelderman, with the Team Sunweb rider at 34sec.

Danish Jakob Fuglsang was the day's biggest loser after a puncture 10km from the finish aw him lose over a minute on his rivals going into Wednesday's 11th stage over 182km from Porto Sant'Elpidio to Rimini.