'Two strikes, team out' COVID-19 rule restored on Tour de France after French government intervention

Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme wearing a face mask arrives for a press conference to present sanitary measures over the COVID19 novel coronavirus pandemic put in place for the start of the 107th edition of the Tour De France cycling race in the French Riviera city of Nice on August 19 2020 The 2020 edition of the Tour de France kicks off in Nice on August 29 and runs to September 20 postponed from June 27 to July 19 due to the coronavirus pandemic Photo by Valery HACHE AFP Photo by VALERY HACHEAFP via Getty Images
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme wearing a face mask (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has confirmed that whole teams will be excluded from the race if any two members of their riders or staff test positive for COVID-19 within the same seven-day period.

The ‘two strike, team out rule’ was confirmed last week but it had been softened by the UCI on Friday to cover only positive cases among riders following a series of meetings between teams, the UCI and ASO in the build-up to the Tour.

In response to the rising levels of contagion in France, however, the French government’s coronavirus pandemic task force interceded late on Friday, and the original wording of the ruling has been restored. 

It means that teams will be excluded from the Tour if any two members of their 30-strong ‘bubble’ of riders and staff test positive for COVID-19 within seven days.

“We remain with two cases out of 30 people in the same team over a period of seven days,” Prudhomme told AFP on Saturday, adding that the decision “had been taken by the inter-ministerial crisis unit.”

The news came hours before the 2020 Tour gets underway in Nice and two days after staff members at Lotto Soudal had fallen foul for COVID-19 in final pre-race PCR tests. The Belgian team said one staff member was positive, while the other was 'non-negative'. It is unclear if complimentary second testing had confirmed the non negative case. 

Lotto Soudal sent the two staff members and their roommates home from the race, but believe they can start the Tour de France. 

Cyclingnews has contacted the UCI to seek clarification on Lotto Soudal’s status on the 2020 Tour.

A 'team bubble' on the 2020 Tour can have up to 30 total people, consisting of riders and staff. All members of the bubble must have no symptoms of COVID-19 and must follow a series of protocols that include avoiding interactions with the public, wearing masks and handwashing.

Riders had to return two negative PCR tests in order to compete at the 2020 Tour. Riders and staff will also be tested on the Tour’s two rest days (September 7 and September 14), while members of a team’s Tour bubble must also complete a health questionnaire every day.

Following concerns about false positives for COVID-19, the UCI confirmed on Friday that any positive cases will have to be verified via secondary testing where possible, before the race organiser can announce the withdrawal of a full team.

France reported a new post-lockdown high of 7,379 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. The highest daily total during the country’s period of lockdown was 7,578 on March 31. French president Emanuel Macron has previously rejected the idea of a second lockdown, but he did not rule it out on Friday as the case numbers increased. 

“We shall do everything to avoid it, but this virus continues to surprise us,” Macron said.

The Grand Départ in Nice will take place before reduced crowds on Saturday as the Alpes-Maritimes department has been classified as a COVID-19 red zone.

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