One of Europe’s most iconic event, the Tour de France, is in doubt after the race’s starting region, the Alpes-Maritimes, was put on red alert.
The Guardian’s Jeremy Whittle reports that tensions surrounding the race ramped up further still on Thursday evening after the Lotto-Soudal team announced two of their team’s support staff has tested “non-negative” for Covid-19 and had been sent home from Nice. “Safety remains priority number one,” the statement read.
“Only world wars have stopped the Tour de France,” the Tour director, Christian Prudhomme, said in March this year, but the rapidly growing concerns over the wisdom of going forward with this year’s race led to a cross-examination of the prime minister, Jean Castex, by journalists on Thursday.
“We have taken numerous precautions and health protocols and I’d remind you that this is an open-air event,” Castex said. “The places where the virus spreads and there is transmission have no organisation. The Tour has an organiser.”
Confirming that Nice was one of 19 new regions to be placed under red alert, Castex stated that “the pandemic is regaining ground and now’s the time to intervene”, adding: “France must do everything to prevent a new lockdown.”
With uncertainty over race gripping the Grand Départ bubble of riders, some teams have hinted they will race day by day, while others have insisted it will not change their long-term tactics.
“We don’t have a strategic plan to be in the lead in case the race stops after one and a half weeks,” Tom Dumoulin, former Giro d’Italia champion, and teammate to Primoz Roglic, said.
On Thursday France reported its second-highest level of cases ever and a new post-lockdown high, with 6,111 cases. The highest daily total of 7,578 was set on 30 March.
You can read Jeremy’s full report on the Tour below.