Joao Almeida’s hopes of finishing on the podium in the Giro d’Italia ended on Thursday as he withdrew due to testing positive for Covid-19, UAE Team Emirates said.
The 23-year-old trailed overall leader Richard Carapaz by just 1 minute 54 seconds with four stages remaining.
All was not well with Almeida in Wednesday’s 17th stage as he lost a minute on the final climb and subsequently had flu-like symptoms.
Almeida, fourth in the 2020 Giro, tested positive on Thursday morning before the departure of the riders on the 18th stage.
“Almeida woke up last night from persistent pain in his throat and the test gave a positive result,” said UAE team medic Dr Michele De Grandi. “We observe strict rules of prevention and, in addition to sanitising the environments which the team uses each day (cars, buses, hotel rooms, etc.), we keep the athletes themselves in single rooms in order to limit very close contacts.
“However, despite these precautions they clearly do not provide 100% shelter as we have seen.”
Almeida was looking good for acheiving the team’s targets of claiming the best young rider title and high hopes of making the podium.
He was just 49 sec off third-placed Mikel Landa and had a favourable final stage, a time trial in Verona on Sunday.
“We are obviously deeply upset because Joao and the supporting team were doing an excellent race,” said UAE chief Mauro Gianetti.
“Our goals were the podium of the Giro and the white jersey as best young rider and we were fighting to win them both. It is bad news, but this is the reality we have been living every day for two years.
“We have to accept it and look forward. Now the most important thing is that Joao recovers as soon as possible.”