In accordance with directives issued by health authorities, this decision was announced on Saturday by the organizers of the Tour a few hours before the start of the opening stage of the three-week race in the French Riviera city of Nice. He overturned a decision by the governing body of cycling, the UCI, which had relaxed the rules of exclusion from the Tour.
According to the UCI protocol announced on Friday, it would have been up to the organizers to decide to fire a team after two positive tests, without counting the members of the staff.
There are 22 teams of eight riders competing on the Tour, but a total of 30 team members when staff are included.
“From two positive cases in a group of 30, there is a real risk of elimination of a team,” said Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour, to France Info radio.
The revised UCI protocol had excluded staff members from the calculations following complaints from teams who feared their riders might be unfairly excluded from the race.
This week, four employees of the Belgian Lotto-Soudal team were sent home after “non-negative” coronavirus tests. The team said a mechanic and a member of the rider support staff returned “a positive result and a suspect result”. Both left the racing bubble with their roommates.
In the event of a positive result during the race, the UCI urged the organizers to “do everything possible” to carry out a new test and blood analysis before the next stage. The measure aims to avoid false positive tests that could rule out healthy runners.
Tour organizers have set up a mobile coronavirus lab that can produce results in two hours and handle 50 tests a day on race days. However, Prudhomme said he cannot guarantee that a rider will receive the additional tests before being taken out of the race following a first positive result.
“If it’s evening, we’ll adjust so that can be done. But if we have a positive result in the morning, he obviously won’t be at the start line if we don’t have time for the follow-up test, ”said Prudhomme.