Disturbing signals are piling up above the Tour de France, postponed for two months and scheduled for a departure from Nice on August 29. In northern Spain, the Tour de Burgos, where the cycling peloton met on Tuesday after a forced break for five months, has indeed lost five riders in the space of two days, recognized as having been in contact with a Covid patient. On Tuesday, Israelis Itamar Einhorn and Omer Goldstein of the Israel Start-Up Nation team withdrew. On Wednesday, three Colombian members of Team UAE-Emirates were dismissed for the same reasons, Andrés Camilo Ardila, Sebastián Molano and Cristian Muñoz. None of them was scheduled to compete in the Grande Boucle and no world star seems to be contaminated or having been in contact with a patient for the moment. But this number of cases raises a little more doubts about the holding of the Tour de France, the only major sports event preserved in 2020 after the postponement of the Euro and the Tokyo Olympics.
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Masque. At the Tour de Burgos, the health measures are however drastic. The runners undergo a temperature control every morning. They wear a face mask in the start and finish areas, only removing it to compete in the stage. No selfie or autograph. No handshake with officials or elected politicians or hostess on the podium. Spectators are requested to wear a mask and keep a safety distance of at least 2 meters. A device that should be further strengthened in the race for the yellow jersey. For the Tour de France, Amaury Sport Organization (ASO) officials have indicated that the riders will compete in a “bubble” for three weeks. Cut off from the public, sponsors, journalists, and even their relatives.
According to the rules imposed by the international federation, they will be tested for Covid between six and seven days before departure, then again on D-3. With the exception of the peloton gathering during the stage, cyclists will not mix from one team to another. They will be accommodated in separate hotel floors and will travel in the bus of their respective formations during the transfer between the Pyrenees and Charente-Maritime, initially planned by plane. An unprecedented decision, some passes may be closed by the gendarmes to spectators, in order to respect the limit of 5,000 people gathered in one place. If we are to believe the rules announced for the Critérium du Dauphiné (August 12 to 16), a preparation race also owned by ASO, supporters will have to wear a mask, gel, and keep 2 meters from the runners – an obligation which seems impossible to apply on certain mountain roads.
The advertising caravan will be cut off by 40% of its vehicles. “In twenty years, we will know that it is the 2020 Tour de France because that we will see the masks along the roads ”, Christian Prudhomme, director of the organization, anticipated July 11 on RMC.
Filter. Worryingly, the Tour could take advantage of the health situation to lock down its communication. For the first time, interviews will take place in “mixed areas”, with runners parading behind metal barriers and responding to reporters only if they wish, as is customary in other sports. Another formula imagined: videoconferencing, which allows questions to be filtered. But the “holders of sports prizes”, that is to say the stage winners, the yellow jersey and the leaders of secondary classifications, cannot even be questioned by these means. ASO said last week that its employees will personally take charge of video interviews with the leaders of the peloton. Nothing should come to shake the tranquility of the 2020 Tour, if it takes place.