Tour de France Start on ‘Red Alert’ Following Positive COVID-19 Tests


AFP/Bicycling |

  • As cases of COVID-19 rise in France, the Tour de Frace’s home for stage one was classified as a “red zone” following two positive tests involving one team.
  • Four members of team Lotto-Soudal tested postive for COVID-19. The two staff members and their roommates have been sent home to quarantine
  • The Tour de France is scheduled to get started on Saturday, August 29.

The 2020 Tour de France’s start from the host city in Nice, France, scrambled to impose tighter health protocols on Thursday as the region was reclassified as a COVID-19 “red zone” while four members of one team were sent home after positive prerace tests.

It was announced only a few dozen fans could get to see the race start on Saturday.

Authorities decided Thursday’s team parade and fan park could only host 1 000 spectators. This left the vast downtown area almost deserted for the show with thousands of fans packed outside large blacked out barriers.

Fines of 135 euros (R2 700) were dished out to anyone without a protective face mask in Nice’s terrace-lined squares and along the beachfront walkways.

The Alpes-Maritimes region where Nice is situated was reclassified as a COVID-19 red zone, along with 18 other French departments in a decision from French Prime Minister Jean Castex.

On Thursday evening, Belgian team Lotto-Soudal said it had sent four of their entourage home after two of them tested “non-negative” for their PCR nasal swab COVID-19 tests.

Any team that has two riders test positive will be expelled from the Tour.

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There was an “undeniable resurgence” of the COVID-19 epidemic throughout France, Castex told a press conference, with 39 positive tests per 100 000 population—four times the level of a month ago, and rising in all age groups.

“We are shifting from tight conditions, to very tight conditions,” regional prefect Bernard Gonzalez said, flanked by Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi and Tour de France organiser Christian Prudhomme.

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Saturday’s Promenade des Anglais start line will allow just 100 spectators, reserved for municipality staff.

There will also be no camper vans or pop-up villages on the summits in the mountains behind Nice on stage two.

“People should stay home and watch on television,” Gonzalez said, without going as far as banning people from gathering in their thousands by the roadside.

Anyone involved in the Tour—riders and the rest of the caravan—have undergone nasal tests for virus symptoms.

“It’s unpleasant [the nasal swab] but necessary. We are all here ready to race after all,” Astana’s Colombian captain Miguel Angel Lopez told AFP.

The Tour de France, however, appears to be pushing forward. The mountainous 21-day race starts Saturday with a run around the outskirts of Nice but avoids the low Alps behind it until stage two, meaning the first stage should end in a mass bunch sprint.

READ MORE ON: 2020 tour de france COVID-19 Lotto-Soudal Nice Tour de France

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