From “human fish bowl” to COVID-19 bubbles, the Tour de France continues

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“There are crowds, it’s just not that manic, it’s really cool in some areas,” said Matt White, Australian team sporting director Mitchelton-Scott.“Everyone who has taken part in the Tour de France knows that it really turns into an aquarium of human beings. On weekends and epic stages there will be crowds, but it just won’t be as oppressive as it once was. “

Adam Yates wearing a mask and the coveted yellow jersey.Credit:Sébastien Nogier, Pool via AP

France has seen an exponential increase in cases as the Tour moves across the country and President Emmanuel Macron has said he will not rule out a new lockdown, calling on the French to be “collectively very rigorous”. A record 8,975 cases were recorded on September 4.

There are strict rules for teams competing in this year’s race, with two positive COVID-19 tests sufficient to kick out an entire team. In a sport that has had its share of drama involving testing, many precautions are being taken to prevent the spread of the virus.

White said the teams played in a 30-person “bubble”, with no mixing between the teams before or after the race.

Staff are dispatched in advance to ensure hotel rooms are cleaned and disinfected, while masks are required.

Mitchelton-Scott sporting director Matt White chats with SBS commentator Michael Tomalaris in France on a previous Tour.Credit:SBS

“The only time we don’t wear a mask is when we’re alone in the hotel room and when we’re eating,” White said as he drove in the Mitchelton-Scott team car. during the sixth stage of the Tour.

“Runners wear a mask all the way to the start line and after the finish line, the four to six hours they cover is the only time they don’t. “

It’s also a different experience for broadcaster SBS, as it brings racing to unmanned ground lounges in France.

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Instead of sitting in a pit at the finish line of each stage, commentators Matt Keenan, Robbie McEwan and Bridie O’Donnell are calling distance racing from Australia.

The team is based in two cities, with McEwan in Sydney and the others in Melbourne.

This is the 25th time to cover the Tour for host Michael Tomalaris. This is the first year that he won’t be there to see it live. Usually he’s part of a team of eight.

“It’s different for me personally. Normally, I drive a vehicle in France for four weeks, driving 6,000-7,000 kilometers before returning the rental car to Charles de Gaulle airport, ”he said.

“We get very little sleep, the days are long, the trips are sometimes exhaustive, and we have to watch television on the road every day.”

Tomalaris has seen interest in the event skyrocket since covering it. At first, SBS couldn’t afford a screen to watch the race.

“I had to sit next to the other English speaking broadcasters and watch theirs,” he said.

This year he believes interest could be higher than ever due to the lockdown, especially in Victoria.

“A lot of people work from home,” he says. “Therefore, they could stay until the end, where they could normally turn it off at 11pm or midnight. They can sleep. “

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