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Tour de France

Riders dismayed at number of fans on Tour de France climbs

Tension rising ahead of rest-day COVID-19 controls that could see riders or teams ejected from race.

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Riders in the Tour de France expressed dismay at the number of fans crowding the road on the climbs in the Pyrénées.

Fans packed in deep Saturday on the Col de Peyresourde and cheered the Tour peloton as if things were normal. Of course, with the Tour being held in a world pandemic, things are far from normal.

“That’s not what we want,” said Jumbo-Visma’s Tom Dumoulin. “The last few kilometers was like the Peyresourde of always, but the coronavirus is here, and we want the Tour to get to Paris. There we can have people screaming without masks, and it will be fine.”

Riders and teams took to social media to ask fans to have more respect for the peloton already feeling the pressure about racing under strict health protocols and possible exclusion from the Tour if they test positive for COVID-19.

Movistar posted a note on Twitter, so did André Greipel, both begging fans to do the right thing to protect the peloton.

“As participants of the Tour, everyone had to make big sacrifices,” Greipel wrote. “It is simple to keep this event going, respect the rules.”

Alarms bells are going in the peloton ahead of Monday’s rest-day controls for COVID-19. If two riders or staffers test positive, the team could be ejected from the Tour.

Staffers will be tested later Sunday evening, and the peloton will be tested Monday morning.

Jumbo-Visma’s George Bennett told VeloNews he’s also worried about the specter of false positives, which has happened a few times over the past month or so.

Race officials said they will try to retest anyone who returns a positive test before Tuesday’s start to reduce the risk of false positives.

Still, riders expressed alarm at how rowdy fans were in Saturday’s “queen” stage across the Pyrénées.

Though roads are being closed 15km from the route, avid fans walked and rode bikes to line the course. In some places, crowds pushed in and ran alongside riders, many times without wearing masks and clearly not observing social distancing rules.

Sources said Tour officials were not happy to see so many unruly fans just as the Tour pushes toward its halfway point.

“We were riding through a [wall], that’s not what we need right now,” Dumoulin said. “We want the Tour to get to Paris. Please wear a mask, and even more important, respect social distancing.”

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