July 11 is a Monday without stages, not a day without constraints. As provided for by the regulations of the International Cycling Union (UCI), all the riders still engaged in this Tour de France were screened for Covid-19 during this rest day. Although no cases of the disease have been detected, many feared a result that would prevent them from leaving Morzine (Haute-Savoie) the next morning. Even feared a cluster that would upset the physiognomy of the race, while contamination is increasing in France.
Already, on Sunday July 10, the Frenchman Guillaume Martin gave up taking the start of the 9e stage in Aigle (Switzerland) after the results of tests, antigenic and PCR, carried out on the initiative of its own team. The leader of the Cofidis was 14e of the general classification. Although his symptoms amounted to a mild sore throat, he was too contagious to keep his place in the peloton. His abandonment was recorded by a decision taken collectively by the doctors concerned (from the UCI, his team and the organization), as provided for in the protocol.
“The Covid can ruin the Tour”
According to the new health system in force, a runner or a member of the management who is positive for Covid but is asymptomatic is no longer systematically excluded. The maintenance of the person concerned in the event depends on the “clinical elements available” for the medical profession, in particular the viral load. The day before, the French Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R-Citroën) and the Norwegian Vegard Stake Laengen (UAE), teammate of the yellow jersey Tadej Pogacar, had also dismounted for the same reasons. “The Covid is not a rival, but a parameter that can affect things, then dropped the Slovenian at a press conference. It can ruin the Tour. »
Several sports directors have also been sidelined because of the Covid-19, while half a dozen selected riders had to stay at home or turn back before the big start given in Copenhagen on 1er July. In Denmark, the virus was on everyone’s mind. “Obviously, this causes a lot of concern, it requires even more attention from us and it remains quite complicated to manage”, testified then Vincent Lavenu, general manager of AG2R-Citroën. “It adds stress, pursued one of his proteges, Benoît Cosnefroy. There are very few serious cases of Covid. But if we catch it, it can have enormous consequences for us. »
The French formation was one of the few to appear in the flesh in front of an audience of masked journalists in the press conference room. Most of the other formations had stuck to videoconferences organized from their hotels, keeping a distance in use systematically in 2020 and 2021. In view of the sporting and financial stakes, time remains for precautions. Sprinters, riders and climbers wear masks when they are not pedaling, they are subjected by their employers to regular tests in addition to the mandatory ones, they avoid selfies and autographs…
The return of a “health bubble”?
On the other hand, unlike the two previous editions, this year there is no longer a “health bubble” drawn up by Amaury Sport Organization (ASO) around the peloton. The press and accredited guests, provided they wear a mask, can again enter the paddock, the area where the buses of cyclists park on arrival and departure, in order to exchange with the convicts of the road. Failing to be able to completely keep the public away from anonymous people, who crowd wherever they can, ignoring barrier gestures, several professional cycling leaders are at least demanding to restrict access to this privileged space again.
The subject could come back to the discussion table with the organizers, on this day of rest in the pure air of the Alps. According to UCI protocol, there is no longer any question of forcing a team to withdraw from which at least two riders present positive PCR tests within seven days. But no one has forgotten the disaster scenario of the recent Tour de Suisse, which served as preparation for its big brother in France, in June. Tested positive for Covid-19, the Russian Aleksandr Vlasov, the leader of the general classification, had to give up three days from the finish and 4 of the 22 formations had thrown in the towel simultaneously, in an atmosphere of rescue-who-can.
Bob Jungels wins alone
Luxembourger Bob Jungels won the 9th stage of the Tour de France in Châtel (Haute-Savoie) alone on Sunday July 10, after 192.9 kilometers and two first category climbs, the Col de La Croix and the No Morgins. Member of a group of 21 breakaways, he left alone in the Col de La Croix, then resisted the attempt to come back from Thibaut Pinot, to offer AG2R-Citroën the first victory of a French team of this edition. . The German Simon Geschke took advantage of this stage to wear the best climber’s polka dot jersey. The yellow jersey remains on the shoulders of Slovenian Tadej Pogacar, who finished in the sprint, forty-nine seconds behind the winner of the day.
(Archives – Video of 03/07/2017)