The Tour seemed to be going well until we learned, this Tuesday, that the prisoner Christian Prudhomme had caught the Covid. “For the image of the Tour, it is serious”, tells us a foreign runner by text, thirty minutes away from setting off on the tenth stage which takes place between the island of Oléron and the island of Ré. «Grave» indeed, because the boss of the Tour embodies the Tour. And that the Tour de France symbolizes France (as evidenced by the ministers present on almost every stage, including the first of them, Jean Castex, on Saturday in the Pyrenees). “I’m leaving the Tour for eight days, says the former journalist, 59, who is positive but asymptomatic. I will do like any French employee in this kind of case. ” Prudhomme coughs and the Tour de France threatens to lie down with an ice pack.
The other disastrous consequence of this new health, confirmed by the organization, is the risk of potential contagion. The boss of the event, always impeccably equipped with a mask, affirms that he was not a member of the “bubble race”, even if he has been seen on numerous occasions near the starting line or in the podium area at the finish. On the other hand, he was omnipresent in the departure village every morning, equipped with a surgical mask, to meet with economic partners and local elected officials. And by car on Saturday, with Jean Castex.
A breakthrough “bubble”?
For the rest, the peloton is declared 100% fit for service. The 650 or so tests carried out on Sunday and Monday on the runners and management members of the 22 participating teams were almost all negative. Only four team members (not riders), belonging to four different teams (Ineos, AG2R La Mondiale, Cofidis, Mitchelton), failed and had to leave the “race bubble”.
A collective relief since a sports training with two positive cases is threatened with exclusion, according to a health protocol validated by the government. When you think that the Belgians of Lotto-Soudal had found themselves with three covids before the departure from Nice, ten days ago … That at least five formations (Ineos, Israel Start-Up Nation, Bora-Hansgrohe, Trek- Segafredo, AG2R La Mondiale, etc.) announced that they had recorded cases of coronavirus among their runners in other events this summer… The case was not entirely won. Though.
Was the risk of a sacked team so great? Yes, if we imagine that the “racing bubble” has been pierced. That the peloton climbed passes Thursday and Saturday, through hurdles of spectators largely without mask; that the same runners meet clients, more or less at a distance, in the hotels where they are staying and where, in theory, the organizers swear it, they are supposed to be placed in isolation. The possibility of contagion is even higher among the thirty or so management members (sports directors, mechanics, osteos and physiotherapists, assistants, press officers, etc.), who can make a ham and butter stop at the bakery. from the corner, converse with some journalists or partners …
Except that many teams had anticipated the official tests, by subjecting their riders and staff to an internal PCR control on Friday. They knew their troops were negative. The organizers had been taken in confidence. This could make the former yellow jersey Julian Alaphilippe, of the Deceuninck-Quick Step team, say, on Monday, that he was waiting for the results “Serenely”.
Other teams were clinging to their draconian security protocols, meant to avoid any likelihood of contagion. At Team Ineos, this internally decided bubble of protection bears the name “Zero Days: Covid Plus”. Which consisted, roughly speaking, in recruiting a second cook for this Tour de France: one only preparing meals for the riders, the other those for the management. Because for the rest, Team Ineos does Ineos. The armada, set up in 2010, has for several years used hydroalcoholic gel in all access areas of its runners, disinfected hotel rooms, transported its own mattresses and pillows – measures taken by other teams since – and forbids handshakes (and the kiss). Ineos was protecting itself against the Covid before the Covid.
Pierre Carrey Special Envoy on the Tour de France