As a dress rehearsal for the Tour de France, Dauphiné started masked

The Critérium du Dauphiné started on Wednesday. In addition to the sporting aspect for the runners, this stage race is an opportunity for the organizing company of the Tour (ASO) of a major dress rehearsal for the sanitation protocol, which would allow the event to take place despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

It’s almost 4:30 pm when the Belgian Van Aert raises his arms. Well led by his partners in Jumbo-Visma, he has just won the sprint, Wednesday 12 August, in the first stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné. Then he quickly introduced himself to the journalists, all wearing a mask, to the traditional post-race interview. An illustration of professional cycling in these pandemic times.

The Critérium du Dauphiné is traditionally presented as a rehearsal for the dress before the Tour de France for the riders. This year, it is also particularly important for ASO, the organizing company for the two cycling races, which sees it as an opportunity to test its health protocol before the season’s flagship.

Strict rules

Dauphiné, the first race organized by the ASO since the end of prison, has adopted the unit’s main lines, which will be the rule during the next Tour de France, scheduled from August 29 to September 20.

“It’s almost a carbon copy, although the size of the events is different,” Pierre-Yves Thouaut, deputy director of the tour, told AFP. “We’re putting up a sanctuary bubble for the race.”

Access to team bus parking spaces is therefore prohibited for the media and limited to members of this bubble (runners, management and certain officials and members of the organization). Binding measures have also been adopted for housing and catering of the various educations. For the general public, the instructions are reflected in particular by the lack of selfies and autographs, usually in cycling competitions and access restrictions at the beginning and end of a stage.

Goal: to pamper the team, divided between the need to run (and win) and care to protect their runners. Like Ineos who complained during Route d’Occitanie, one of the first races after the season break, of loose safety.

“It was weird. Our caregivers do everything they can to make sure we have masks, while people are always there trying to remove the capsule from your bike,” said Dylan Van Baarle, a teammate of Egan Bernal and Christopher Froome at Ineos. “I think the restrictions for Route d’Occitanies are pretty lax. I was also surprised at the number of people who were on the side of the road without masks as well.”

Masked spectators

Is this a consequence of this complaint or a precautionary measure, while the pandemic is showing signs of recovery? The fact remains that it is mandatory to wear a mask for spectators on the side of the Critérium roads.

Loire’s head, Évence Richard, said he had taken the measure “at the request of the ASO, the organizer of the Critérium du Dauphiné”.

“The health situation remains fragile in the Loire, where the spread of the virus is still active,” he said.

Only among the five departments concerned, Savoy has not yet taken action in this direction. But “the decree is being studied and signed,” says the prefecture.

Worlds interrupted or moved

The resumption of the professional cycling season remains fragile and conditioned by the development of the epidemic. As the riders tried to tame the slopes of the critique, the organizers of the 2020 World Cycling Championships, scheduled for September 20-27 at the Swiss site Aigle-Martigny, announced that they were suspended.

According to a decision taken by the Swiss federal authorities on Wednesday, large demonstrations “with more than 1,000 people” will remain banned until 30 September. “As a result, the organization of the World Cup is impossible, especially since more than 45 countries are subject to a quarantine of entry into Switzerland (…), which would not allow the event the desired influence,” the organizers said in a statement.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) responded by indicating that it wants to keep track of events and is working on “an alternative project” so that the 2020 edition of the worlds “is kept, as a priority in Europe and the dates originally planned”.