In the hustle and bustle that is the Tour de France, she is easy to overlook. Florence Pommerie is diminutive and discreet by nature. But as director of the Tour de France medical staff, she is one of the central figures in the existence of the Tour de France this year. And she has been working directly with the Tour de France owners ASO as well as the French government, to make this year’s Tour a success.
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A veteran of the Tour for the past decade, it is safe to say that Pommerie and her team have been working overtime behind the scenes simply so the Tour could take place. “We have invested a lot,” she said in the tech zone behind the sign-in ceremony before the start of stage four in Sisteron today. “Everybody has invested a lot to make this happen. We’ve done everything we can so that the Tour happens. And we hope we go all the way to Paris. It would demonstrate that, if are invested and make the effort, and if we are reasonable, we can make things happen.”
Already under normal conditions, Pommerie has a busy month of July when on the Tour.
“We have three full ambulances in the publicity caravan, with a doctor, nurse, [and an] anesthesiologist. We can take care of most things. We have another ambulance in between the caravan and the race. We have three more ambulances in the race as well as two convertibles and a moto that follows the breaks. Then, at the finish; we have a medical truck that can take care of x-rays and echographies, as well as a surgeon.”
Pommerie, along with most of the medical staff works extensively in emergency rooms. “We have to work very quickly in stressful situations and the emergency room is good for that.”
But this year’s Tour, what will certainly go down as the “COVID Tour,” is another beast altogether. “In terms of COVID-19, nothing has changed in the race. But of course, we have had to increase our support outside of the race. We have had to add an entire team for testing along with a mobile laboratory so that we can test everyone who is in the race bubble—the riders, the team staff, and the race officials. We did our first round of testing at the start of the Tour and will do another on each race day. And lastly, we have a mobile lab that can quickly go to a team hotel in case someone is showing potential signs. And lastly, we have a COVID-19 ambulance in case someone needs to be evacuated quickly.”
“As a result, we have four additional staff during the week and another 10 on the major testing days,” she added. “And lastly we have a team circulating all around the race at the start and finishes, distributing masks and gel.”
Questions have surrounded the start of this year’s Tour. Some question if it was safe to hold the event, while others doubt that this year’s Tour will make it all the way back to Paris.
But Pommerie remains positive. “I’m always optimistic!” she says without hesitation. “Its an experience. The Tour is an enormous event and France accepted to hold it this year. I don’t think there are a lot of countries that would have tried this. You have to understand that the French government, the Tour organizers, and all of the medical staff have worked hand in hand to make this Tour happen. We have really done everything we can, along with a lot of goodwill, so that the Tour makes it to the end. The government made an effort so that 3,000 people can move around the country. Obviously COVID-19 is a virus that we don’t understand. And certainly we don’t want it to return. But personally I think it is possible to have a Tour safely. We are really at a crossroads, but if we manage to pull it off, to have a big event like this go all the way to the end, then it will be a huge success. It’s a beautiful challenge!”