Complete teams will be removed from the Tour de France if two riders or staffers show serious symptoms or test positive for COVID-19.
That’s according to an 18-page document that outlines a detailed list of protocols and mitigation to try to keep the lid on the coronavirus over the next several weeks during cycling’s most important race.
Some have wondered if the entire Tour would be shut down if there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 inside the peloton.
According to a document shared with teams this week ahead of the August 29 start in Nice reviewed by VeloNews, the answer is no.
Only individual riders or staffers, or — in the case of two or more infections — complete teams would be removed. The race will go on.
“If two persons or more from the same team present strongly suspect symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19 the team in question will be expelled from the Tour de France,” the document reads. “Its riders will not be authorized to start the Tour de France (or the next stage) and the team’s personnel will have their accreditation withdrawn.”
The strict protocols don’t limit expulsion from the race only to confirmed COVID-19 cases. Anyone showing serious signs of infection based on multiple symptoms will also be removed even before a follow-up COVID-19 control will be carried out.
Team doctors and race medical staff will also play judge and executioner in milder cases, and will decide if a rider would be able to start a stage if they are showing lesser symptoms of a possible infection.
Race officials are also taking the concept of “contact tracing” very seriously. Anyone who comes in close contact with a rider or staffer who tests positive during the race could also be removed from the Tour, as well as face a 14-day quarantine.
Health rules outline Tour protocols
Everyone’s been wondering what will happen if there is a COVID-19 case during the 107th edition of the Tour.
Race organizers ASO shared the health regulations with teams this week ahead of the August 29 start in Nice.
ASO is leaving as little as possible to chance.
The blueprint provides the working plan on how teams should manage, protect, monitor, and handle all their riders and staffers — limited to 30 per team — starting three days before the Tour and running through September 20 in what will be a Tour contested under unprecedented conditions.
The document outlines the concept of “bubbles,” how often and when riders and staffers need to undergo COVID-19 controls, what team doctors need to do to monitor their riders, and most importantly, what will happen if someone shows serious symptoms of infection.
According to the document, the broader goals of the protocols include limiting the size of the Tour entourage as well as minimizing contact of everyone on the race.
The ultimate goal, the document reads, is “to safeguard the health of riders, team personnel and other people involved in the Tour de France and to guarantee that the event can go ahead.”
‘Bubbles’ and limited contact keys to plan
Don’t expect to be getting any selfies with Egan Bernal in France. Social distancing will be taken to an extreme for the 2020 Tour.
As already outlined by the UCI, the “bubble” concept is central to the plan. The idea is that if everyone — from racers to staffers and sport directors — inside the bubble is free of COVID-19, the risk of a spread is greatly reduced if contact with others is also severely limited.
To enter their respective “bubble,” all riders, staffers, and other personnel must pass two COVID-19 controls. Anyone testing positive will not be allowed to race or work on the Tour.
Any Tour-bound riders who test positive for COVID-19 as part of pre-race screenings can be replaced by a healthy rider until 10 a.m. on August 29.
Everyone in the Tour entourage will also be tested again on both rest days, September 7 and September 14.
Another key element is monitoring of symptoms. Every day before and after each stage, doctors must gauge the health of every rider and staff via a health checklist that tracks any would-be symptoms of possible infection, such as fever, coughing, shortness of breath, abnormal aches and fatigue, and other signs.
Doctors will then rank any symptoms as “moderately” or “strongly suspect,” and share the information with the race medical staff and COVID czar.
A mobile COVID-19 medical unit will be at each day’s stage to expedite any required on-the-spot testing.
A Tour like no other
The health regulations also require the use of facemasks before and after stages, including inside team buses and cars. Rules also keep fans and media at bay, and press conferences will be held online. Riders are not allowed to interact with fans at all, according to the rules.
No one except riders and essential staff will be allowed into the team bus parking area before each stage. A media mixed zone will be set up following social distancing rules of at least six feet.
Staffers will be required to wear facemasks, even when handing up food bags in feed zones.
The rules even extend to the hotels. Each team will be kept to its own floor or wing, with controls of who is allowed to enter certain zones.
The rules and protocols are all part of the extraordinary steps being put in place to try to allow the Tour to be contested. Anyone not following the rules will have their credentials removed or face expulsion from the race.
The rules and health regulations are all being rolled out to try to control COVID-19 within the Tour entourage. What race organizers cannot control is what is happening throughout France.
If the coronavirus kicks into a higher gear and France sees a major surge of cases in the coming weeks, the Tour’s protocols might not matter at all. Government officials have the final call.