Almeida retains pink as Giro records more COVID-19 positives

Portugal's Joao Almeida of Deceuninck-Quick-Step leads the Giro d'Italia in the pink jersey after 14 days in his first grand tour Tim de Waele/Getty Images

The Giro d'Italia has recorded a further two positive coronavirus tests after the race was thrown into doubt last week.

On Tuesday, race organisers said UAE-Emirates rider Fernando Gaviria and a AG2R La Mondiale staff member had returned positive results from the latest round of testing on Oct 18-19.

Last week, five teams were hit by positive tests for the coronavirus, with Jumbo-Visma and Mitchelton-Scott withdrawing from the race before stage 10.

The U.S. team, EF Education, wrote to the UCI -- the sport's governing body -- calling for the abandonment of the race after stage 15, before the second rest day on Monday, to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but the UCI rejected the request.

No positive results were recorded out of 492 tests in the round of testing towards the end of last week, but the Oct. 18-19 tests showed two positives.

UAE-Emirites said in a statement: "All other riders and staff returned a negative test, and will undergo further testing today.

"Gaviria was immediately isolated following the test result and is feeling well and is completely asymptomatic. This is the second time the Colombian has tested positive for the virus, after also having it in March."

Gaviria and the AG2R La Mondiale staff member were referred to their team doctors, who organised isolation measures and took action concerning contact cases.

As the race continued with stage 16 on Tuesday, Bahrain McLaren's Jan Tratnik edged past Ben O'Connor in a two-man finish to take the team's first stage win of the year in a 229km hilly route from Udine to San Daniele del Friuli.

Portugal's Joao Almeida of Deceuninck-Quick-Step retains the pink leader's jersey after he made a late charge on the steep finish to extend his overall race lead to 17 seconds over Sunweb's Wilco Kelderman.

"I was feeling good and sometimes the best defence is to attack," said Almeida.

A chase group including Ineos Grenadiers rider Ben Swift threatened to haul in solo leader Tratnik but only NTT Pro Cycling's O'Connor was strong enough to set up an exciting finish with 12km remaining.

Tratnik held off the Australian rider to secure the biggest race win of his career, finishing with his arms outstretched and tears streaming down his face.

"I attacked so far from the finish and the last climb was very hard," the 30-year old Slovenian said. "I didn't think I could do it, but in the end it was a perfect day.

"We are close to the Slovenian border so today my brother and my girlfriend were here... 500 metres from the finish I saw my girlfriend and I found some extra energy that allowed me to win."

The Giro continues on Wednesday with stage 17, a 203km mountain ride from Bassano del Grappa to Madonna di Campiglio.

Information from Reuters was used in this report.