It was set to be a cycling showdown for the ages.
But sadly, the real world appears to have gotten in the way.
The 2023 Giro D’Italia was all set to be a month-long showdown between two of the sports biggest superstars.
On one hand, you had Slovenian star Primoz Roglic. Roglic, 33, switched to cycling after a ski jumping accident and quickly became a star. He won his first grand tour at Vuelta a Espania in 2019 and was the Tour de France favorite in 2020.
He led the 2020 Tour de France for much of the way, only to have his heart broken on the second-to-last stage by countrymen Tadej Pogacar.
The Tour de France has since eluded Roglic. But he won Olympic gold in the time trial in Tokyo and completed a Vuelta a Espana threepeat in 2021.
On the other side of the aisle was 23-year-old Belgian wonderkid Remco Evenepoel. Evenepoel, the reigning world road race champion, claimed his first grand tour in 2022 when he won the Vuelta in a race Roglic pulled out following a crash. Evenepoel was in first place with Roglic in second at the time.
The Belgian has not yet ridden a Tour de France. But he was hoping to win the Giro d’Italia for the first time.
Evenepoel star stormed to a big lead after the first stage. He extended that lead after winning a second time trial on stage 9 on Sunday.
But then tragedy struck.
— Remco Evenepoel (@EvenepoelRemco) May 14, 2023
With the race set for a day off on Monday, all riders underwent a routine COVID test on Sunday evening. Sadly, Evenepoel’s came back positive and he was forced to leave the race.
“I am really sorry to be leaving the race,” Evenepoel said in a statement. “As part of the team’s protocol, I took a routine test, which unfortunately was positive. My experience here has been really special and I was looking forward to competing over the next two weeks.”
It’s a killer blow to the legendary race and fans were absolutely devastated by the news.
Not like this ! 😔 😢 https://t.co/2Yjm4PB0rP
— Rowey (@rowevid_booster) May 15, 2023
WAIT WHAT https://t.co/bqq7p09hCR
— Katie (@medicinexthings) May 15, 2023
So sad Remco. I am shocked.We are with you! Go for the Tour de France! We believe in you. Thank you for the beautiful moments! https://t.co/D4zjADTKaJ
— paul belmans (@BelmansPau44005) May 14, 2023
Geraint Thomas, who won the Tour de France in 2018, now leads the race. Roglic is just two seconds behind. While 2020 Giro d’Italia winner Tao Geoghegan Hart is a further three seconds back.