From minor ailments to serious injuries, how does the doctor treat runners during the stages?

If you are a regular fan of the Tour de France, you must have seen this blond hair in the window of his white convertible, clinging to 50 km / h a runner bruised by a fall. Florence Pommerie has been the head doctor of the Tour de France since 2010.

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A doctor with a long career in Samu 93, the sixty-year-old was in charge of repatriation to the Dakar Rally when the ASO, the organizer, offered to lead the medical team of the Tour de France. “If I had been told that I would be the medical director of the Dakar Rally and the medical director of the Tour de France, frankly, I would never have imagined it! It’s a combination of circumstances, but I like the sport. a doctor, so the human body pushed to the extreme, is very interesting physiologically. “explains Florence Pommerie.

He has been traveling around France in his white car with the blue cross for twelve years to help runners. When the fall shakes their pumpkin and scratches their skin, they are their first aid. You have to act fast, because you can’t drag yourself into the fury of the Tour. I’m sorting out a bit: we have a pretty short time, so we look and decide if we take the rest of the ambulances or not., she reveals. On the Tour, everything is meticulous, and the order of priority on the car line is very strict: “Sports directors know that in the event of a fall it is absolutely necessary that they push themselves and let at least one ambulance arrive at the scene.”

Florence Pommerie rescues Colombian Darwin Atapuma at the 2014 Tour de France. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Her voice may be rather fine, her tone calm, imposes Florence Pommerie. It manages a total of thirty people. “We have doctors, anesthetist nurses, a physiotherapist and an emergency surgeon in the race. We have three Samu-type ambulances, two trucks equipped with resuscitation equipment, and a motorcycle emergency doctor.”lists it in your head.

With each edition come news to strengthen the medical arsenal. “For a few years now, we have had a truck on arrival, with radiologists specializing in traumatic ultrasounds.says the GP. Next year, we should have a scanner. It allows runners to clear a doubt and not run to emergencies “.

During the collective falls, the fall of bicycles in the ditch and the runners hit on the asphalt forces Florence Pommerie to intervene in two stages. “They often get up, have sores and leave. They don’t want to stay! We have very little time, or even nothing, so they arrive at the convertible later, when things have calmed down a bit. “continues the incumbent doctor.

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Having thus regained their senses, the runners come to heal the most visible wounds. “These are very successful treatments: we disinfect, we protect the wounds. But you have to be careful, you don’t let the bike touch you”warns Florence Pommerie.

The chief physician also sometimes offers psychological support. During the ordeal experienced by Marc Soler (UAE-Team Emirates), ill and finally out of time, we were able to see the runner talking to the emergency physician. “We talk, but not for hours. We help them a little, they can come and see us”she says.

Florence Pommerie (in the background) in conversations with Patrick Bevin (BMC) during the Tour de France 2018. (MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP)

The medical team then hands over the team’s doctors, who decide the future of the bad runner alone. “We give them an opinion. Then it all depends on whether he is a leader or not, because some come to win. You don’t treat a leader like another. They are strategic thoughts, but they don’t” it doesn’t belong to us. ” she continues.

By sharing her wounds, Florence Pommerie ended up forging a bond with these bitumen convicts. “I have a great admiration for them, it would be abnormal not to have it. We see them climbing, we are exhausted by them! It’s a humble sport, where they don’t have big heads.”says the doctor. “We learn a lot. They challenge each other every day, they’re disappointed, it doesn’t go the way they want … There’s only one sport that lasts like this for three weeks!”she remembers.

Inevitably, in twelve years of care, Florence Pommerie has also experienced moments of loneliness, which she enjoys. “I got the cold bomb wrong while treating Sylvain Chavanel. He had made foam as if he were shaving foam! And besides, it wasn’t his right shoulder …”.

“Julian Alaphilippe came to tell us during the race that he had chickenpox. Then we asked him if he had a fever. He assured us that he didn’t, but that he had a lot of red bumps. We took almost five minutes to understand that it’s because I had the polka dot shirt … “

Florence Pommerie, chief doctor of the Tour de France

a franceinfo: esport

More than the French, the person in charge of the Covid-19 tests imposed by the UCI on rest days has especially liked a runner. “I’m very happy to have seen Chris Froome back on the Alpe d’Huez podium. He really is the spirit of those who don’t give up. He’s brave anyway, it’s not easy what he lived through.”, emphasizes Florence Pommerie with a tender smile. “OhWe took care of him when he fell in the Critérium du Dauphiné in 2019. He was hurt, we knew that all this risked harming him for a long time “, she continues.

Arriving in 2010 at the Tour, does Florence Pommerie see any difference between the Grande Boucle of that era and that of 2022? “For three or four years now there has been a real ecological awareness, with the cans, the efforts being made with the rubbish. Show a lot “, she judges. At just 60, he is aiming for a few more editions before hanging up. “We’ll see, as long as we’re in good shape. But there comes a time when people have to be trained.”. Then the time will come “enjoy the rest.”

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