Mikaël Cherel is convinced: Monday, July 11 will be the first “justice of the peace” for the Tour de France peloton. The thing may seem paradoxical, because it’s a … day off before you hit the road again for two weeks. “I’m afraid there are a lot of people forced to come home”develops the Belgian Oliver Naesen, his teammate of the AG2R Citroën team.
Is that the Covid-19 makes (bad) surprise guests. As soon as the 9the the stage, on Sunday, the pilots and their direction paraded under a white tent installed near the team buses, to comply with the mandatory screening.
On Monday morning, the International Cycling Union (UCI), which conducted these tests, announced that the results were negative for the entire squad.
“A storm over your head”
The protocol of the International Cycling Union (UCI) could have been lightened before the start of the 109e Grande Boucle, and a positive result that is no longer synonymous with automatic exclusion, the anxiety is nevertheless palpable after several packets during the last forty-eight hours.
“In our team, the staff is tested every day and the drivers every two or three days. We are very attentive “, explains Florian Vermeersch (Lotto-Soudal). “We live in a storm that can explode at any time”, summarizes Marc Madiot, CEO of Groupama-FDJ. The Mayennais still has in mind the disaster scenario of the Tour de Suisse, in June, where about thirty runners had to leave the race due to SARS-CoV-2: “When the virus reaches the platoon, it spreads quickly. »
Guillaume Martin can attest to this. A “very mild sore throat” on Saturday evening, two antigen tests confirmed by a PCR test, and the ax fell: the leader of Cofidis was not allowed to take, on Sunday, the departure of the 9e stage between Aigle (Switzerland) and Châtel Les Portes du Soleil (Haute-Savoie). His first retreat in three hundred and sixty-two days of racing.
“It’s frustrating because I have no symptoms, I’m fine. »stressed the interested party, who was 14 years olde to the general classification before leaving the test. The tripartite college formed by the doctor of his team, the referent of the Covid-19 of the event and the medical director of the ICU considered that the viral load of the Norman was too high.
“Maximum level of precautions”
“You don’t want to come home just for a positive test, when you have no symptoms. When you have a cold, you go to train and run.”insists Maxime Bouet (Arkéa), more worried about being made out of the race by the Covid-19 than by the pain of the broken rib he has been dragging from Denmark. “It’s not so much a health problem for us, it’s more that it risks making us lose a great collective and personal goal”, explains Mikaël Cherel. The SARS-CoV-2 has already passed the first Tour of one of its teammates, the climber Geoffrey Bouchard. So he chose to relativize: “You don’t have to worry about that, there’s nothing you can do about it.”
“The Covid-19 is not a rival, but a parameter that can affect things. It can ruin the Tour »Tadej Pogacar, yellow shirt
In the ranks of the UAE team of the yellow jersey and double winner of the event, Tadej Pogacar, this phlegm is not really shared. The problems are not quite the same. “It’s important for any positive runner to come home”, insists the team’s sporting director, Andrej Hauptman. Deprived of his lieutenant Matteo Trentin just before leaving Denmark, the Slovenian will also have to compose up to the Champs Elysees without Vegard Stake Laengen, a beautiful rider to put him back in the peloton.
“The Covid-19 is not a rival, but a parameter that can affect things. It can ruin the Tour “recognized “Pogi” on Saturday, in Lausanne (Switzerland). On his follow, we do not hide that he fears above all a possible contamination (and a forced return to his Monegasque house) much more than a waste of time of one of his opponents, always reversible.
Sign of the challenge, the team Jumbo-Visma, the team of its main rival, the Dane Jonas Vingegaard (2e 39 seconds in total), since the start of this edition has shown a level of caution unmatched in the peloton: FFP2 mask for drivers and sports directors, even in cars, wider perimeter around the bus, air purifiers in your hotels … “It is impossible for us to increase the level of precautions, it is to the maximum”underlines the head of the Dutch navy, Richard Plugge.
“I’m forced to pass through the crowd”
After two years marked by the pandemic, the UCI and Amaury Sport Organization (ASO), the company that manages the Tour, have chosen to live with the virus. This is where the gap with the platoon is sometimes noticeable. “The public lives normally and I normally live at home, but not in the Tour de Franceinsists Marc Madiot. We cannot blame anyone, but it is true that the situation is more delicate than the last two years in which the citizenry had this concern and was paying attention. »
“We will take precautions with a PCR test every three days and an antigen test every day, and I am forced, this morning, in the starting village, to go through the crowd.”plagues his teammate TotalEnergies, Jean-René Bernaudeau, upset by these inconsistencies.
The Belgian Florian Vermeersch is still more pragmatic: “I try to limit my contacts, I have the mask on when there are a lot of people, but in the end we ride in a group of 180 guys and without a mask, so …” Sunday, before the start of the 9the on stage, Dutchman Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) answered questions from journalists with his face uncovered. He who the day before had a sore throat.
Our selection of articles on the Tour de France 2022