Tour de France: a cycling organization relaxes the rules for excluding COVID-19 on the eve of the first stage

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Egan Bernal, Colombian rider from Team Ineos, attends a training session a day before the start of the 107th Tour de France in Nice on August 27, 2020.

KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP / Getty Images

The cycling governing body relaxed the rules for excluding COVID-19 from the Tour de France on the eve of the first stage of the race following complaints from teams who feared their riders would be unfairly excluded from the race. race.

After meeting with team officials, the UCI said on Friday that a team will not be automatically sent home if two of its riders test positive for the virus within seven days as originally planned. According to the revised protocol, it will be up to the organizers of the Tour de France to decide whether to exclude an entire team from the race.

Tour director Christian Prudhomme said later on Friday that he was still waiting for the French authorities to decide whether to give the organizers some leeway to make such decisions.

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“In the case of two or more riders from the same team who test positive for COVID-19 within seven days during a Grand Tour, the UCI will give the organizer of the event the authorization to announce the withdrawal from the team for health reasons, ”said the UCI.

Initially, the Tour’s COVID-19 protocol stipulated that teams would be expelled if two or more of their runners or staff members tested positive for the virus within seven days. According to the new rules that will also be applied to the Spanish Vuelta and the Giro d’Italia, staff members will not be counted.

Speaking to reporters, UCI President David Lappartient said the new protocol was different from that developed by the organizers of the ASO Tour, but sufficiently strict.

“We also told the teams that they have to be strict,” he said. “We want the Tour de France to start, but we want the Tour de France to end. This is the goal for all of us. “

Four members of the staff of the Belgian Lotto-Soudal team were sent home Thursday 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.

The UCI said the latest revisions “stem from a desire to optimize the interpretation of a positive viral diagnostic test and confirm that it does correspond to recent coronavirus infection.”

In the event of a positive result, the UCI also urged the organizers to “do everything possible” to perform a new test and a blood test before the next stage.

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“These additional examinations will be a very useful additional element in the overall medical assessment, which will enable the contagious character of the runner (or member of the team) to be assessed or not,” he explains.

The measure aims to avoid false positive tests that could rule out healthy runners.

The UCI said team members who tested positive during the race will be isolated and will have to leave if a second test cannot be completed in time.

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.

German team Bora-Hansgrohe were among those who expressed concern after a first that their riders tested positive and then negative on Tuesday, which resulted in their entire team being withdrawn from the one-day race of Brittany Classic.

“The adjustments made today to the UCI protocol have enabled us to find the right balance between the legitimate concerns of teams facing the risk of exclusion and the vital preservation of the health of the peloton,” said Lappartient.

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