Tour de France organiser ASO has confirmed that no riders or staff tested positive for COVID-19 coronavirus on the second rest day, meaning all the riders and teams can now continue in the race with the goal of reaching Paris next Sunday.
ASO said 785 tests were carried out on the second rest day in the Alps and all "returned negative results."
“The screening campaign which has taken place over the past 48 hours is the 4th since the beginning of the event. Its objective is to guarantee the health of the race for the riders and accredited personnel in the face of the novel coronavirus,” a joint ASO and UCI statement said.
“The organisers of the Tour de France and the UCI would like to thank all of the teams for their collaboration and for the vigilance that they have shown and will continue to show up until the finish in Paris.”
Riders and staff in the so-called ‘race bubble’ have now undergone four COVID-19 tests. The completed two tests before the race and another around the first rest day on September 6 and 7.
In a nervous day of rumours and reports, it emerged that four staff members from Ineos Grenadiers team, Mitchelton-Scott, AG2R La Mondiale, and Cofidis tested positive for COVID-19. They left the race along with several other staff members who had shared rooms with the four confirmed cases.
Race director Christian Prudhomme also tested positive and spent a week at home respecting the new French seven-day quarantine rule. He returned to the Tour de France on Tuesday for stage 16 to Villard de Lans.
After the four positive cases, teams were concerned about the ‘two strike, team out’ rule put in place by ASO and French medical authorities that ruled a whole team would have to leave the Tour de France if two cases emerged in a team in a seven-day period.
The French authorities eventually allowed the resetting of the seven-day period before the second rest day but the negatives results allowed the Tour de France caravan to race on with more optimism despite a growing number of COVID-19 cases and an increase in the number of red zones in France and the limitation of crowds along the race route.
The only risk to teams is if cases of COVID-19 emerge via daily questionnaires that riders and staff complete each day or if the symptomatic cases emerge. However, team and the race organisation continue to enforce a strict medical protocol to protect riders and officials in the ‘Race bubble.’
On Monday the CCC Team pulled Łukasz Wiśniowski from Tirreno-Adriatico before the final time trial stage after the Polish rider developed mild symptoms for the COVID-19 then tested positive in a rapid test on Sunday evening.
Teams and riders will continue to undergo further COVID-19 testing before they start other races across Europe. However Giro d’Italia race director Mauro Vegni has said that the Corsa Rosa will not follow the Tour de France in enforcing a ‘two strikes, team out’ rule for coronavirus cases during the event, which takes place from October 3-25. COVID-19 cases in Italy are currently much lower than in other countries.
“It’s not something that I agree with,” Vegni said, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. “As the [UCI] rule says that the organiser ‘can’ but doesn’t ‘have to’ act in that way, I won’t apply the rule. If there is a positive case, they will be isolated according to the protocol.
“I think that’s correct and respectful towards people who don’t have anything to hide in a situation like that. Anyone who tests positive certainly isn’t a bandit. I’ll obviously look to safeguard them from a health point of view, but I’m not going to nullify the work of a team that has been preparing for a year for a big event.”
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