German team Bora-Hansgrohe are among those who have expressed concern after their riders first tested positive and then negative on Tuesday resulting in their entire team being withdrawn from the one-day race de Bretagne Classic. Bora team principal Ralph Denk has called for immediate changes to the cycling testing regime to combat false positives.
“We are talking about athletes who have been preparing for a race for weeks or months and who might not be allowed to start the event due to a false discovery,” he said.
When the Tour teams arrived in Nice, some were surprised to find that they were sharing their designated hotel with regular customers, raising doubts about the tightness of the racing bubble.
In addition to concerns about COVID-19, riders will face one of the most relentless Tour routes in memory, with an overall high total of 29 difficult climbs. They will climb the five French mountain ranges: the Alps, the Massif Central, the Pyrenees, the Jura and the Vosges. Uphill slogs arrive from stage 2 on Sunday, in a first for the race, with two climbs of 1,500 meters (4,920 feet) and more.
An uphill time trial on the penultimate stage before Paris decides on the ranking of the contenders for the podiums and for the winner’s prize of 500,000 euros ($ 590,000).
Defending champion Egan Bernal of Colombia is the only previous winner in an area stripped of quadruple champion Chris Froome and 2018 winner Geraint Thomas, both omitted by Bernal’s Ineos team, leaving him as their sole leader. The main among Bernal’s rivals could be Primoz Roglic, a Slovenian who finished 4th in 2018, and Tom Dumoulin, the Dutch runner-up that year who is now Roglic’s teammate at Jumbo-Visma.
But with the pandemic having forced riders to train indoors on stationary bikes and with limited races in this tumultuous year, preparing the top contenders is one of many uncertainties in a Tour unlike any other. .
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