Cycling: Astana pull two riders from Giro due to COVID-19 concerns

FILE PHOTO: Cycling - Tour de France - Stage 20 - Lure to La Planche des Belles Filles - France - September 19, 2020. Astana Pro Team rider Alexey Lutsenko of Kazakhstan in action. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

(Reuters) - Astana have dropped Yuriy Natarov and Vadim Pronskiy from their squad for the upcoming cycling race Giro d’Italia after the two riders came in close contact with team mate Zhandos Bizhigitov, who tested positive for COVID-19, the Kazakh outfit said.

Natarov and Pronskiy, who were both part of Kazakhstan’s squad for the cycling world championships last month, will be replaced by Jonas Gregaard and Rodrigo Contreras at the Giro in October.

“It’s sad that we had to withdraw Yuriy and Vadim, as they would’ve made their debut in the Giro d’Italia, but the protocol is very strict,” Astana General Manager Alexandr Vinokurov said.

“We hope Zhandos Bizhigitov gets well soon and that all the other riders will test negative in the upcoming period to make sure they can participate in upcoming races.”

Alexey Lutsenko, who withdrew from the world championships after a positive test, is awaiting the results of his retests, Astana said.

The Giro will take place from Oct. 3-25 after being pushed back from its traditional slot in May due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa