Shortly before the Tour de France, the ideal and almost virus-free cycling world collapsed. The corona virus was rampant again at the Tour de Suisse. Now the concern in the Tour of France is great.
The virus is back. Shortly before the start of the 109th Tour of France, the peloton is concerned about a Corona tour.
Teams postponed their nominations, stars like defending champion Tadej Pogacar and Primoz Roglic even gave up their national championships – just no unnecessary contact, just no unnecessary risk so close to the start on Friday in Copenhagen.
“Of course it’s a shitty feeling and the fear is well justified,” said German professional Jonasrutsch. The 24-year-old will ride his second Tour de France – should his mandatory corona test be negative. A little over a week ago,rutsch experienced first-hand how the corona virus decimated the field of riders in the Tour de Suisse with merciless vehemence: “In the morning there were only two of us at the table – the night before we were a complete team.” Four teams had to give up completely in Switzerland, even after the end of the tour there were a number of positive tests.
It seems like a little lottery to decide who will finally be able to roll off the starting ramp in the individual time trial in Denmark’s cycling-mad capital on Friday. There are stars like the former Roubaix winner John Degenkolb or the three-time world champion Peter Sagan, who – if you will – got infected in time and are now fit again. The test hit the German hopeful Maximilian Schachmann in the middle of last week. For the Berliner it will be a race against time and for fitness.
A negative quick test is enough to start. Two more quick tests are also planned during the tour on the second and third day of rest. The world association UCI sent out these regulations at the weekend. Previously, the more sensitive PCR tests were mandatory. There are also internal team protocols for the drivers after an infection. So Degenkolb first had to have a thorough check-up before he could get back on his bike.
Dealing with the virus is quite different. There are teams like the Dutch Équipe Jumbo-Visma from tour favorite Roglic, who sometimes take all drivers out of a race or break off an entire training camp if the test is positive. In the eyes of the public, the team did particularly well in the spring and celebrated successes when many teams had obvious problems.
business model at risk
It was recently shown in Switzerland that there is no such thing as 100% security. “It hit both the teams that normally follow the rules and those that completely isolate themselves,” said Ralph Denk, team boss at Bora-hansgrohe. As a high-performance athlete, you should of course use common sense to protect yourself against an event like the tour, Denk emphasized. But that was also the case before Corona.
The manager from Raubling in Upper Bavaria is primarily concerned that cycling will have to retreat into a bubble like in 2020 and thus move away from the fans and the public. The business model is at stake here. “I have a stomach ache that we isolate ourselves. Then we might be virus-free at some point, but also budget-free,” said Denk.
He advocates normal and careful handling of the virus. This includes being particularly careful before the tour, but not completely entrenched in a bubble. Like almost no other sport, cycling thrives on the extreme closeness to the fans. The sport does not want to and must not lose this closeness. On the other hand, the close proximity harbors a risk that seems difficult to calculate at the moment.