Race leader Remco Evenepoel follows his Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl teammates during stage 8 of the 2022 Vuelta a España.

Evenepoel and Roglič lose key domestiques through COVID-19 and illness

Pieter Serry is the latest to test positive as COVID-19 continues to cut swathes through the peloton, and Sepp Kuss abandons with fever.

by Kit Nicholson

photography by Getty Images

Race leader Remco Evenepoel and defending champion Primož Roglič both lost key domestiques for the hilly terrain on the morning of stage 9, leaving Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl and Jumbo-Visma with seven riders with two weeks left of the 2022 Vuelta a España.

The team of race leader Evenepoel confirmed that all-round talent Pieter Serry is the latest Vuelta rider to fall victim to COVID-19, joining Bahrain Victorious’s Wout Poels and the half-dozen others who have been forced to withdraw since the start.

“After falling ill overnight, Pieter Serry was tested by the team doctor for Covid-19. Unfortunately, the test has returned positive and Pieter will leave La Vuelta,” the team announced on social media. “The team will continue to implement a stringent testing regime & precautions in order to minimise the possibility of any further infections among the rest of the squad & staff.

“There will be no further comment made on the situation, other than to wish Pieter a speedy recovery.”

Trek-Segafredo’s Daan Hoole was the first rider at the Vuelta to be hit by a positive test before stage 5. Since then, Jaakko Hänninen and Andrea Vendrame (AG2R-Citroën), Jan Hirt (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), Anthony Delaplace (Arkéa Samsic) and DSM roommates Nikias Arndt and Mark Donovan have also been forced to withdraw, a number of them first-time infections.

While the coronavirus continues to have its say, other illnesses are also chiming in at the Spanish grand tour. A few days after his terrific ride in the hills with Groupama-FDJ teammate Rudy Molard, Jake Stewart was forced to head home with a gastro-intestinal complaint ahead of stage 8. And now the departure of Jumbo-Visma’s American talent Sepp Kuss, who withdraws due to fever.

Kuss’s absence is a big blow to Roglič who currently sits third overall. The 27-year-old was the Slovenian’s principal climbing domestique and was yet to come into his own at the Vuelta, a race at which he has thrived in the past, winning a stage in 2019 and finishing eighth overall in 2021.

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