The Recorder – Stressful Tour de France day off as riders face COVID-19 testing


Published: 09/07/2020 17:30:12

LA ROCHELLE, France – It was a day of rest like no other for the Tour de France group.After nine nervous and grueling stages that took the peloton from the Côte d’Azur to the Pyrenees via a short trip to the Alps, the riders would normally have taken a Monday off with their friends and family.

But this year is different.

In addition to their recovery routine, the remaining 166 runners remained in their own ‘bubble’ with a sword of Damocles hanging over their heads as they underwent coronavirus tests that will decide whether they can continue running. .

“It’s disturbing, but you have to be patient,” said Frenchman Warren Barguil, seated alongside his team leader Arkea-Samsic Nairo Quintana during a video conference. “We will see our families in Paris on September 20.”

Even with the video filter separating them from the reporters, both runners kept their face masks on while they answered questions.

Tour de France organizers said around 650 tests will be carried out. Some took place on Sunday, with the majority of the runners being tested on Monday.

Under threat of cancellation at some point – more than 30,000 people in France have died after contracting the coronavirus, making the country one of the hardest hit in Europe – the Tour was saved by pushing it back from its traditional date from July to the end of summer. The price paid for the race to run is a heavy health protocol that includes mandatory COVID-19 testing for runners and team members on rest days.

All of them were tested before the start of the Tour in Nice and have since lived in their forties of the race, making sure to stay away from the generally ubiquitous fans and sponsors during the three weeks of the popular event.

After four members of the Belgian Lotto-Soudal team were sent home following abnormal coronavirus tests on the eve of the Tour, the race proceeded without further incident related to COVID-19.

But maintaining social distance from the crowds by the roadside has not been an easy task. During the first stage on Saturday in the Pyrenees, many spectators without a mask did not respect the distance of two meters demanded by the organizers by applauding their favorite riders.

Although test results are not expected to be released until Tuesday, teams will soon find out if the virus has contaminated the racing bubble.

“It would be a real shame to see a rider excluded from the Tour de France because he was encouraged by fans who were not attentive enough,” said Cofidis team director Cédric Vasseur.

The next round of testing could indeed throw the race into turmoil. Anyone who tests positive will have to leave the race and any team with more than two positive tests – runner or staff – within seven days will be expelled.

To avoid false positives that could rule out healthy riders, Tour organizers said they will try to get a new test and blood test as soon as possible. They’ve set up a mobile coronavirus lab that can produce results in two hours.

After Sunday’s last stage in the Pyrenees, where Slovenian Primoz Roglic grabbed the race leader’s yellow jersey, the 22 Tour teams traveled by bus to the west of Charente. The race resumes on Tuesday with a flat stage connecting two islands, Ile d’Oléron and Ile de Ré.

Roglic leads defending champion Egan Bernal by 21 seconds with Frenchman Guillaume Martin in third place, 28 seconds behind.


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