The top favorite is out: World Champion and overall leader Remco Evenepoel has to retire from the 106th Giro d'Italia - because of a positive corona test. "You never know what's going on under your skin. No risk," team boss Patrick Lefevere tweeted after the Soudal Quick-Step cycling team took its star out of the race on Sunday evening. The UCI had relaxed the Corona regulations at the beginning of the season. There are no longer any mandatory tests, instead it is now up to the teams how they deal with the virus.

Evenepoel had won the second individual time trial at the Giro on Sunday and reclaimed the pink jersey of the overall leader before the first rest day. After the stage, he complained of mild cold symptoms.

Protecting drivers from long-term effects

"Corona no longer has the full force it used to, but still...", Belgian virologist Marc van Ranst told broadcaster Sporza: "Evenepoel has made the right decision for his health. In addition, you still live in a group there. You can infect anyone there, even now that the virus is less severe."

At the beginning of the season, team doctor Yvan van Mol had already explained the team's internal procedure: "We don't know what consequences this will have for their heart system. Our role is to prevent our riders who test positive for Corona from continuing to compete. In hindsight, we don't have enough evidence to be sure that this won't have any impact on their health."

A total of six riders have already dropped out because of Corona since the start of the Giro on 6 May. On Sunday, former Tour de France runner-up Rigoberto Uran from Colombia also had to pass after an infection. Previously, two-time time trial world champion Filippo Ganna and Bora-hansgrohe rider Giovanni Aleotti (both Italy), among others, had been caught. Even before the race, some riders had decided not to start after testing positive.

Evenepoel has already left by car, accompanied by his family. "I'm proud to leave the race with two stage wins and four pink jerseys," the 23-year-old young star wrote on Instagram. Evenepoel, along with Slovenia's Primoz Roglic, was the big favourite for overall victory, despite two painful crashes on stage five, when a free-running dog had initially brought down some riders before the Belgian crashed again shortly before the finish. Evenepoel complained afterwards of back pain and "some big bruises", but got back on the bike the next day.