Those in charge of the Tour de France are trying these days with demonstrative serenity. Anyone who asks the Amaury Sport Organization (Aso) how sure they are that they can really pull off their big race on the streets of France will get the answer: “Nothing in life is safe”.
The 107th Tour, the highlight of every cycling year and every French summer, should begin this Saturday in Nice with the Grand Départ. But how this time something with the 21 stages, 176 drivers and 3500 kilometers of racing across the country will be uncertain.
There is a heightened corona alarm in France, the authorities have noted an unfavorable development, and the number of positive tests this week was several times over 4000 per day. The situation is particularly tense in the department around Nice and in the capital Paris, i.e. the start and destination of the tour – the German government even declared the two regions to be risk areas on Monday evening and issued a travel warning.
If two tests are positive, one team is out
Every sport and every cultural organizer tries these days to do what can be done somehow. And that applies even more to the tour because it is such an unusual blend, as an economic factor and a folk festival and national sanctuary. Aso has come up with a comprehensive security concept, the peloton should move in a kind of bubble without contact with the outside world on the country roads. If there are still two positive cases in a team – eight drivers plus around 20 supervisors – it’s out. The German Bora team found out on Tuesday how fast this can go. The start of a one-day race in Brittany was planned. But after a (in the end wrong) positive corona finding in the team, Bora had to withdraw – none of the drivers registered there is in the tour line-up.
But it’s not just about the athletes and the team supervisors. The spectators are an integral part of the tour. This time they will not be everywhere and probably in fewer numbers than usual, but they will still arrive in droves. And from the hotspot Nice the entourage moves with all the fans and all their companions across the whole country. It can act like a big virus distribution machine.
Some cycling representatives hope that the tour can become a symbol. But you have to be aware that the opposite can also happen. And that the Grand Départ, the big prelude that is usually the festive beginning of a three-week spectacle, this time turns out to be the beginning of the big end.