The biggest test for Tour de France riders is COVID-19


(Reuters) – The Tour de France offers riders plenty of tests, from grueling climbs to furious sprints, but it’s COVID-19 that could hold the key to victory when the world’s greatest cycling race kicks off on Saturday, said three-time champion Greg LeMond.

FILE PHOTO: Cycling – The 104th Tour de France Cycling Race – Greg LeMond in Daily Chat with Reuters – Düsseldorf, Germany – June 30, 2017 – Three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond poses for Reuters. REUTERS / Christian Hartmann

Twenty-two teams and 176 runners will start from Nice and if they are to reach the finish line of the Champs-Élysées on September 20, they must first cover 3,484 km (2,165 mi) COVID-19 without COVID-19.

With the number of new daily cases of coronavirus increasing in France, there is little room for error with the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) which applies strict rules to protect riders.

One of those rules would see entire teams excluded from the Tour if two riders in the same outfit tested positive for the novel coronavirus within seven days.

The exclusions, however, will not be automatic and the decision will be made by race organizers and the sport’s governing body, leaving LeMond worried that this will open the door to interpretation.

“If they want to apply it, they have to apply it directly and cannot make any exceptions for the yellow jersey,” LeMond told Reuters.

While other sports have evolved in a quarantine bubble, the Tour will spend three weeks crisscrossing France, where the routes are regularly lined with thousands of spectators.


The Tour will attempt to strengthen social distancing and limit attendance, but runners could still be open to anything from COVID-19 sabotage to accidental exposure.

“You can’t control the public,” said Le Mond, 59, of the United States. “But unless someone tries to sabotage the Tour by spitting on riders, and it has happened in the past, the risks will be low.

“But what if a team has a positive? You have to isolate all the other runners so these are nightmarish situations.

“If a team has a positive what happens? Does that mean the whole team is coming out. It could not only change a team, but change the whole race. ”

LeMond, a whois who is looking to get back into cycling with the relaunch of LeMond Bicycles and the goal of sponsoring a team in 2022 partly funded by a new line of carbon fiber e-bikes to be released in September, knows officials runners wearing face masks can’t do much when they’re not on their bikes for regular testing.

“I watched the riders they all had masks on at the start, but it’s still a great experience,” said LeMond. “It’s definitely more difficult than isolating a football or baseball game.

“I think the biggest dangers will be at the start and at the finish. If the runners are isolated and they are not in contact with people, make sure that the hotels are clean, where they receive their meals, it will be positive.

“None of the runners want to get sick.

“You read about COVID and it doesn’t get sick like a cold, it has permanent damage like inflammation of the heart, vascular system – as a cyclist you don’t want it.

Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Edited by Ken Ferris

Our standards:Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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