No Evenepoel, Thomas in pink, and masks back on at Giro
Giro d'Italia organisers have reintroduced the compulsory use of face masks amid a surge of coronavirus cases, including pink jersey holder and world champion Remco Evenepoel who had to quit the race as a result.
"The previous protocol no longer exists I cannot assume that there haven't been other unregistered cases. We will restore the mandatory use of masks," Giro director Mauro Vegni told the Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.
The organisation offers coronavirus tests to the teams, but they are not obliged to remove their riders from the race if there is a positive result.
"We dropped our guards a bit too early. We have to remain vigilant," Vegni added.
Evenepoel had reclaimed the overall lead on Sunday in a time trial but a few hours later was withdrawn by his Soudal-Quick-Step team after testing positive for the Sars-CoV-2 virus and left for his home country of Belgium on Monday.
The ruling body UCI no longer has mandatory tests and is leaving it up to the teams how to proceed in such cases but Evenepoel's team leader Patrick Lefevere tweeted that their decision was clear.
"You never know what happens under the skin. No risk," Lefevere tweeted.
Evenepoel complained about mild flu-like symptoms after the stage and Soudal-Quick-Step team doctor Yvan van Mol had said at the start of the season that riders would be withdrawn after positive tests.
"We don't know what consequences it has on their heart system. It is our role to stop our riders who test positive for corona from competing," he said.
Former Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas has inherited the pink jersey and said he will 'wear it with pride'.
There have been previous instances of riders declining to wear leader's jerseys, most notably when Chris Froome did so for one stage of the 2015 Tour de France following the injury-enforced withdrawal of Tony Martin.
While Thomas sympathised with the circumstances of Evenepoel's exit, the Welshman intends to be in pink for Tuesday's 196-kilometre stage from Scandiano to Viareggio.
"Leading the race is a massive honour, but at the same time it's not really the way you want to take the jersey," he said during Monday's rest day.
"I'll definitely wear it with pride. It's the first time I've worn the pink jersey. I think for the race it's still a good thing to keep it in the race. I just wish Remco well and hope he's back soon."
Primoz Roglic, who is Thomas' immediate challenger just two seconds adrift after the first week, last week told the Ineos Grenadiers rider he had tested positive for Covid before the Slovenian backtracked and revealed he was joking.
"(Evenepoel) messaged me before the announcement," Thomas said. "At first, I thought, 'Is he winding me up a bit?' After the whole Roglic stuff. But then there was the announcement and it was a surprise."
Welshman Thomas has never finished higher than 80th in four Giros and thought his chances were over after fracturing his pelvis on stage three in 2020.
"It would be amazing (to win)," he added. "I don't really feel too much pressure or expectation. I'd just love to take the opportunity."