Finally, the Tour de France 2022 will have to deal well with the Covid-19. After two editions truncated by the virus, the Grande Boucle imagined being able to avoid a new wave of the epidemic and finally spend the summer away from masks and PCR tests. Within weeks, that hope was gone.
The last blow came on June 17: on the morning of the sixth stage of the Tour de Suisse, around thirty riders tested positive and were therefore forced to withdraw immediately from the race. “It’s difficult. We realize that in our entourage, there are more and more positive people”advanced the manager of Cofidis, Cédric Vasseur, on the eve of the start of the Tour de France.
“I really have a lot of fears when approaching this Tour de France, the most fears for the past three years: 2020 was a complicated year, we were confined but it went pretty well on the Tour. from France, also in 2021, explained the former runner. And it almost looks like a nightmare.”.
Actors of the race, they are inevitably the most punished in the event of a positive test with symptoms since they could have to leave the race. Requested from all sides for three weeks, some fear that they will find themselves victims of a lack of vigilance from the public regarding the wearing of masks or barrier gestures. “We are almost the only ones to be careful. Over the past two years, the population has been taking more precautions: now, the restrictions are lifted, no one wants to bother with this, even hoteliers no longer wear the mask. Except that we are in the middle of all this, and if we have a positive test, we have to leave the race”complained Benoît Cosnefroy in the columns of The team at the time of the French Championships on June 25.
Boarding a crowded plane for the Grand Départ when 90% of the passengers are not wearing a mask. First stress test. @Round is on.
— Romain Bardet (@romainbardet) June 28, 2022
The new regulations unveiled by the UCI on Wednesday will now entrust three doctors with the decision whether or not to isolate a positive runner. Understand: those concerned will not systematically leave the Tour. What scramble the message for the actors. “It’s been seven months that everyone has been preparing. If a 25-year-old, fit and healthy, tests positive but has no symptoms? I don’t know, I’m not a doctor or researcher but I see the work provided, the message is not clear on that”underlined Romain Bardet on Wednesday.
Bryan Coquard, declared positive asymptomatic the day before departure, had to pack up on the decision of his team, Cofidis, without flinching, but inevitably disappointed. “We believed in it until the end, but the PCR test this morning [jeudi] turned out to be positive. I would rather be sick and bedridden and not be able to move. I don’t have any symptoms, I don’t even have a runny nose or a sore throat or headache. It’s all the more frustrating in this case. It’s a little weird but that’s the way it is.”
Thus, for the first time, the Covid-19 prompted runners to leave the event before it had even started. “It leaves a real scar and for a long time. Because the Tour, when you go there for the first time, you fall in love with that thing, there is a rather special scent. You want to come back to it, to shine. So with the Covid, you tell yourself that the work you have done goes up in smoke”notes France Télévisions consultant Yoann Offredo.
However, despite the new measures and the specter of a positive test, the peloton also knows how to put things into perspective: for the moment, the race is taking place, despite certain limits. “The most annoying thing about the party is that there were race guidelines that told us not to sign autographs or avoid photos, which is a bit of a shame. But we all have to respect these measures because unfortunately there is a real rebound and everyone is a bit on the razor’s edge”whispered Romain Bardet during the presentation of the teams.
Always a philosopher, Guillaume Martin, the leader of the Cofidis formation, keeps a cool head. “Yes there is additional stress linked to the health risk. But it’s my sixth Tour now and my third in times of Covid, so by force of circumstance I have learned to get used to all that. I remain relatively serene and relaxed at the start of this Tour de France.”Like the Frenchman, the runners intend to dodge the virus for three weeks, in order to hope to reach Paris.