Masks, behind closed doors, test … Tour de France starts in its health “bubble” in front of Covid-19

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

By postponing the flagship event on the cycling planet until September, the organizers certainly hoped that the Tour de France would start in a France free from the threat of Covid-19. Wasted effort. Prior to 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 28 August from Nice.

ASO has set up a system of “bubbles” to avoid multiplication of contacts. The team and their management will be in a “race bubble” that is strictly forbidden to come into direct contact with the other “bubbles” to avoid introducing the virus into the platoon.

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Prior to the race, all personnel authorized to work with the runners must present a negative PCR test. Drivers must present two and they are tested again every rest day.

During the competition, a positive case from a runner or member will lead to the person concerned being withdrawn, as well as a study of contact cases. The decision will fall to the Covid cell, which consists of 15 people, who will work in cooperation with the regional health agencies.

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

Reduced caravan, autographs prohibited

For this 2020 edition, only 3,000 people were accredited compared to almost 5,000 in 2019. ASO has really decided to reduce the size of the Tour caravan, so expected on the roads every year, but also for the journalists who will need to participate. follow strict rules.

Journalists are in an “organizational bubble”, separate from the “competition bubble” for 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 unit,” he explains.

At the end of each stage, the interviews will be very structured, as will those of the sports directors during the race. The runners are only available under pressure points and by agreement in boxes.

These measures trace a great tradition of the tour: “The most restrictive thing is not to do interviews around the bus and the law hotel, this is where we gather the most information,” explains Rodolphe Massé, editor-in-chief of RMC Sport.

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

Access to filtered passes

The classification, on Thursday, of the Alpes-Maritimes in the red zone caused a prefectural decision on “almost behind closed doors” in the department from which the Grande Boucle starts on Saturday. On the competition road that crosses 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 expected. We have shown for at least ten days that we will move from a tighter system to an even tighter system,” Christian Prudhomme confirmed.

And, after Nice, spectators can wear a mask along the road locally by each of the prefects of the crossed departments. But Christian Prudhommeen commits the spectators to doing it themselves, a proof of “common sense”.

Access to the passes for which the Tour de France is known will also be heavily filtered. The police “will do everything possible to ensure that the spectators do not remain agglutinated in a passport”, says the head of the Alpes-Maritimes, which develops a health protocol that has been validated at national level. “If I have any advice for spectators, it’s watching mountain passes on TV.”

Two cases were discovered at Lotto-Soudal

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

Two other members of the team, who shared a room with them, have also returned and added the Belgian team, led by Australian Caleb Ewan and Belgian Philippe Gilbert. According to Belgian media, the four people who left the tour are two assistant coaches and two mechanics.

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