The Critérium du Dauphiné is always considered a major test before the Tour de France. But this year the testing went well beyond the riders and their condition. It was also a test for Tour organizers ASO to monitor the many sanitary measures that they had put into place before the grand tour starts in Nice, less than two weeks away.
Before the race started, all riders, staff and accredited members had to go through a string of medical tests. COVID-19 tests were mandatory no more than five days before the start, and they even had to be confirmed by personal doctors.
Per UCI measures, the event was divided into different “bubbles.” Teams formed one bubble and the team bus parking – typically a hotbed for interviews – was closed off to the media as well as the public.
Each team then had to show up to the sign-in podium together, in an effort to avoid the daily traffic jam that so often occurs in the final minutes before the start.
Photographers were allowed to shoot from a distance, but were discouraged from engaging in any conversation with riders. And journalists hoping to interview any riders were corralled into a mixed zone and limited to no more than two questions. Needless to say, in-depth reporting took a hit.
Masks, of course, were the order of the day. Riders would roll up to the start line in their masks, only to remove them no more than three minutes before rolling out. And they were mandatory for anyone at the event.
And then there were the fans. Discouraged from coming to the start and seeking autographs, plenty still made the effort. And while they were strongly encouraged to wear masks even along the roadside, that did not stop them from coming out in the many towns and on the many mountains. For while the coronavirus crisis continues to offer a strange setting for a bike race, at the end of the day, it did not get in the way of five days of great racing.