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Two scenarios — one good, the other not so good — that’s what the Tour de France is working on behind the scenes for its upcoming 2020 edition, rescheduled for August 29 to September 20.
The first scenario calls for additional social distancing measures, but it will largely look like any other Tour for fans. The second is more stringent, with more limitations on fans and media access, and it will be tested during the Critérium du Dauphiné, August 12-16.
According to the French sports daily L’Equipe, the French government is working hand-in-hand with Tour owners ASO to create a flexible blueprint that can be quickly implemented if health conditions change suddenly on the ground. Tour boss Christian Prudhomme said officials have been working on plans that include room to maneuver in case of a COVID-19 flareup.
“Authorities have asked us from the start to work on several scenarios,” Prudhomme told La Dernier Heure. “That’s part of the hypothesis and we will be prepared for them.”
Similar to what was rolled out last week for the Vuelta a Burgos in Spain, Tour officials are envisioning a race that limits physical contact to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Fans and journalists will not have access to the team bus parking area. Finish line areas will also be off-limits to everyone except a few team staffers. Podium ceremonies will be stripped down, and cars will not be able to drive up the Tour’s most popular climbs. Instead, fans will be asked to walk or ride bikes. The publicity caravan will be reduced by 40 percent.
Under rules released last month by the UCI, teams have been creating COVID-free zones dubbed “bubbles,” with everyone inside the bubble undergoing health controls before being allowed to enter, and then face the prospect of staying together with the same riders and staffers throughout an event.
During the Tour, teams will see new protocols before and after the stages. Team hotels will be more controlled, with fewer people and separate dining areas. Riders will not fly between transfers, but instead travel with team buses.
Tour officials said the final plans will be released publicly in the coming weeks.