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by José Been
September 15, 2020
Photography by Cor Vos
The second round of testing at the Tour de France was carried out yesterday and there were zero positive COVID-19 tests out of a total of 785 individuals tested within the race bubble.
On the first rest day four team staff members in the Tour de France returned a positive test who were employees of Cofidis, AG2R La Mondiale, INEOS Grenadiers and Mitchelton-Scott. However, all of their second test results were negative and they were permitted to stay in the race. All riders tested negative.
Race director Christian Prudhomme also returns to the Tour de France today. He is not part of the race bubble but did get tested on the first rest day and returned a positive test and subsequently left the race for seven days to self-quarantine. Francois Lemarchand replaced him but today Prudhomme is back in the lead car of the Tour de France.
Prudhomme said, “We can only rejoice as this means our measures were a success. We are faced with a virus that killed 30,000 people (in France) in the spring. We took the measures we had to…Everyone says the pandemic is going to stick around, it’s imperative we continue to live our lives. When people respect the rules and pay attention, it works.”
As Prudhomme rejoices however, some have criticized the Tour de France’s testing measures to be set up for success with a meager seven day sliding testing window that resets right before next round of tests before any team can be expelled because of two positive results.
There were fears that the crowded mountain passages in the Pyrenees where many spectators were cheering the riders on – some without the mandatory facial masks – would result in positive tests in the second round of in-race testing but these fears were fortunately put to rest.
The COVID-19 protocol for the Tour de France was designed by the ASO and the UCI. Riders and staff stay in their team bubble and avoid contact with outsiders as much as possible. Everyone would be tested six days prior to the race, on the day of arrival in Nice, and on the two rest days. This makes today’s and yesterday’s round of testing the fourth for the event.
Current infections are at record highs in France. The French government has labelled almost half of the departments a ‘zone rouge’, a red zone. The biggest hotspots are currently in the bigger cities: Marseille, Bordeaux and …. Paris. At the moment it’s unclear if and how the Tour de France will finish this Sunday on the Champs-Elysées, but it’s looking more likely than it did before the race began. With six stages left and no rider has tested positive, the race will likely conclude in Paris on Sunday.
Meanwhile at Tirreno-Adriatico the CCC team has sent home two of its riders after one of those riders, Lukasz Wisniowski, tested positive to COVID-19.