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UAE Team Emirates rider George Bennett has withdrawn from the Tour de France before the start of the 10th stage in Morzine in the French Alps, due to a positive Covid-19 test result. Image Credit: AFP

Morzine: New Zealand’s George Bennett became the second team mate of defending champion Tadej Pogacar to leave the Tour de France after a positive COVID-19 test, the UAE Team Emirates said today.

“On Monday he was tested as per internal protocols of the team and returned a positive result. This was confirmed with a PCR test. Therefore he will not start today,” team doctor Adrian Rotunno said.

Last Saturday, Vegard Stake Laengen also pulled out with COVID-19, which means that Pogacar’s team are now down to six riders going into a gruelling week in the Alps.

Pogacar leads the overall standings, 39 seconds ahead of Dane Jonas Vingegaard.

Today’s 10th stage is a 148-km mountain trek to Megeve.

Earlier, Australian Luke Durbridge was also pulled out after testing positive for COVID-19, his Bike Exchange-Jayco team said.

Mild symptoms

“Unfortunately Luke Durbridge has tested positive for COVID-19 this morning. Durbridge has very mild symptoms & will not start todays stage 10,” the Australian outfit said in a statement.

Bennett is the fifth rider to leave the race with a positive COVID-19 test since the start on July 1.

All riders had been tested on Sunday night and all tests had returned negative.

Last year, if two members of a team tested positive for COVID the whole outfit would be sent packing, which is not the case in this edition.

Whether a rider who tests positive can stay in the race is decided following a meeting between race, International Cycling Union (UCI) and team doctors, depending on the rider’s viral load.