Under new UCI rules, Tour de France won’t kick out teams with COVID

The door is open for COVID positive riders to stay in the peloton, too.

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A series of freshly updated UCI rules surrounding COVID protocols were released on Tuesday, detailing both a relaxation and tightening of protocols in a number of key areas.

Most crucially, as we head into the Tour de France, is a removal of the requirement that race organizers boot teams with two or more positives from the race. In fact, the new rules even leave room for a rider with COVID to stay in the peloton, however unlikely that actual outcome may be.

The key changes come shortly after a wave of COVID cases had a major impact on the Tour de Suisse and other races used as Tour de France preparation events. The new protocols hinge on an evaluation of the current COVID situation.

The UCI makes note of the efficacy of vaccines, the good vaccination coverage in the peloton, and “the very fast spread of the last variant of concern (VOC), the Omicron variant, which although it escapes the humoral immunity, does not give severe forms of the disease.”

In a summary of a longer technical document, the UCI makes clear that teams do not need to be concerned over a wholesale removal from the Tour de France due to positive tests. “The rule that authorised the organiser to withdraw from the race any team that had two or more riders returning positive Covid-19 PCR tests within seven days is dropped,” the protocol summary reads.

Further, the new regulations open the door for allowing COVID-positive riders to stay within the peloton, leaving that decision up to the race’s COVID coordinator and medical personnel.

The new regulations state:

In the event of a confirmed case of COVID-19 within a team (riders or team members), by antigenic test confirmed by a PCR test, the decision of possible isolation will be taken in a collegial way by the physician of the concerned team, the COVID doctor of the event and the UCI medical director on the available clinical elements. The decision will be taken by a majority of the panel. The conclusions of the medical expertise will be send to the UCI and organisers.

The key word there is possible. It is difficult to imagine at this time that COVID positives won’t result in isolation, but the UCI is clearly setting up for a future in which COVID is treated like other illnesses that make their way through the peloton every Grand Tour.

The changes come as other measures are re-tightened after a prolonged period in which preventative measures were somewhat relaxed. The new protocols require additional antigen tests for both riders and staff in the leadup to the race as well as testing every three days at a minimum during the event. Rest days will also see mandatory testing for teams, staff, UCI personnel, and anti-doping personnel.

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