Both Israel-Premier Tech’s Simon Clarke and Magnus Cort of EF Education-EasyPost tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of stage 15 from Rodez to Carcassonne. The two will not start Sunday’s stage, and the double positive on the eve of the final rest day with its required peloton-wide COVID-19 testing leaves an ominous feeling in the (sweltering) French air.
Up to the start of stage 15, Clarke and Cort were both heroes of the Tour, with Clarke winning the mini-Paris-Roubaix stage into Arenberg Port du Hainaut and Cort’s stage 10 victory ahead of Nick Schultz.
Cort in particular has had a dream Tour. He was off the front four stages in a row, including both road stages in his home nation of Denmark, and wore the polka dot jersey from the second to the ninth stage when Simon Geschke (Cofidis) took over the mountains classification. After two weeks of flying high, the Dane woke up on Sunday morning with symptoms that led to a rapid test.
“Magnus Cort woke up this morning with a headache and fever and has since tested positive for COVID-19. He will not start stage 15 of the Tour de France. His medical evaluation is ongoing,” EF Education said on its social media Sunday morning.
Clarke returned a positive in a routine test done by his team.
“After an internal routine test carried out by the team, unfortunately, Simon Clarke has returned a positive Covid test. Therefore, Simon won’t take the start of stage 15,” Israel-Premier Tech said. “All other riders returned negative tests and are ready to race today.”
The rest of the peloton will race the 202.5 km stage into Carcassonne in 40°C/104°F weather. The intense heat wave has caused the UCI to implement the Extreme Weather Protocol with feeding allowed from kilometre 0 to 10 km to go. Riders will also be allowed to accept bottles from outside their teams, provided it is done so in a COVID-19 safe manner. The ASO has also called upon local firefighters to spray the melting roads with cold water, and the riders as they pass by, for a nice little moment of reprieve.