Masks, behind closed doors, tests … The Tour de France sets off in its health “bubble” in the face of the Covid-19


Published on : 28/08/2020 – 10:51

The Tour de France starts from Nice on Saturday in an unprecedented health context. Faced with the Covid-19 epidemic, the organizer ASO has implemented a strict protocol to protect runners.

By postponing the flagship event of the cycling planet to September, the organizers certainly hoped that the Tour de France would start in a Hexagon free from the threat of Covid-19. Wasted effort. Faced with the resurgence of the coronavirus, ASO has implemented a very strict health protocol to protect runners and allow the race to take place. It starts on Saturday August 28 from Nice.

ASO has set up a system of “bubbles” to avoid the multiplication of contacts. The teams and their management will be in a “race bubble” which will be strictly prohibited from coming into direct contact with the other “bubbles” to avoid introducing the virus into the peloton.

>> To read also: Like a dress rehearsal for the Tour de France, the Dauphiné set off masked

Before the race, all personnel authorized to work with runners must present a negative PCR test. The riders must present two and they will be tested again on each rest day.

During the race, a positive case from a runner or a member of the management will lead to the withdrawal of the person concerned, as well as a study of contact cases. The decision will fall to the Covid cell, made up of 15 people, which will work in conjunction with the regional health agencies.

A mobile screening laboratory will also be present and will follow the runners throughout the race. The results of the tests will be known “within two hours maximum,” announced Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour de France.

Reduced caravan, autographs prohibited

For this 2020 edition, only 3,000 people have been accredited against almost 5,000 in 2019. ASO has in fact decided to downsize concerning the Tour caravan, so expected on the roads each year, but also concerning journalists who will have to attend. comply with strict rules.

Journalists are in an “organization bubble”, separated from the “race bubble” of runners and their teams, explains Laurent-Eric Le Lay, sports director at France Televisions, who had to show “flexibility”. “ASO asked us a month ago to apply a reduced device,” he explains.

At the end of each stage, the interviews will be very structured, like those of the sports directors during the race. The runners will only be accessible during press points and by appointment, in boxes.

These measures derail a great tradition of the Tour: “The most restrictive will be not to do interviews around the bus and the hotel of the teams, this is where we gleaned the most information”, explains Rodolphe Massé, editorial director of RMC Sport.

Official protocols on arrival – for now mixed guests – will also be reduced to their bare minimum. And no way for spectators to get a selfie or autograph from their favorite champion.

Access to filtered passes

The classification, Thursday, of the Alpes-Maritimes in the red zone caused a prefectural decision of “almost behind closed doors” in the department from which the Grande Boucle starts on Saturday. On the route of the race which crisscrosses the city of Nice and its mountainous hinterland for two days, a prefectural decree requires spectators to wear a mask.

“The transition to the red zone was anticipated. We have known for at least ten days that we will go from a tightened system to an even tighter system,” confirmed Christian Prudhomme.

And, past Nice, the wearing of the mask along the road by spectators may be made mandatory locally by each of the prefects of the departments crossed. But, Christian Prudhomme urges viewers to do it on their own, a testament to “common sense.”

Access to the passes for which the Tour de France is famous will also be heavily filtered. The police “will do everything to ensure that spectators do not remain agglutinated in a pass,” said the prefect of the Alpes-Maritimes who evokes a health protocol validated at the national level. “If I have one piece of advice for spectators, it is to watch mountain passes on television.”

Two cases detected at Lotto-Soudal

The organization had its first cold sweats on Thursday. Two members of the Lotto team planned for the Tour de France were sent home following a “non-negative” PCR (nasopharyngeal) test for Covid-19, told 48 departure times in Nice the Belgian formation Lotto-Soudal

Two other people from the team, who shared rooms with them, have also returned, added the Belgian team whose leaders are the Australian Caleb Ewan and the Belgian Philippe Gilbert. According to Belgian media, the four people who left the Tour are two assistant trainers and two mechanics.

ASO has announced that the protocol will be strict: as soon as two cases of Covid-19 are detected in two riders of the same team over a period of seven days, this team will be excluded from the race. A constant sword of Damocles above the runners.


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