CHATEL, France (Reuters) – Tadej Pogacar’s rivals have been sharpening their knives as the Tour de France hits the Alps, however the largest threat to the Slovenian’s quest for a 3rd consecutive title is perhaps the COVID-19 surge inside the peloton.
Three riders in two days needed to pull out of the race after being contaminated by the virus and exhibiting signs, elevating fears that the bunch might be decimated when all the riders shall be examined throughout the relaxation day in Morzine on Monday.
At the Tour de Suisse final month, half of the riders solely completed the race as the virus unfold like wildfire and riders and workers are actually fearing it’d occur on the world’s largest biking occasion.
“It’s a giant scare,” stated total chief Pogacar, whose UAE Emirates workforce mate Vegard Stake Laengen pulled out after testing constructive on Saturday.
“The riders need to be protected. This morning we needed to undergo the crowd, folks the place touching the riders. It’s insufferable,” stated Total Energies supervisor Jean-Rene Bernaudeau on Saturday.
Last yr, if two members of a workforce had been to check constructive for COVID-19, the entire outfit could be despatched packing, which isn’t the case on this version.
Whether a rider who examined constructive can keep on the race shall be determined following a gathering between the race physician, the International Cycling Union (UCI) physician and the workforce physician, relying on the rider’s viral cost.
While final yr, all riders, workers members and Tour followers needed to check adverse to take the begin inside a strict bubble, the 2022 Tour began from Denmark with none particular anti-COVID-19 measures.
“They ought to have been stricter at the begin and check everybody,” a sports activities director on the Tour, who declined to be named, advised Reuters on Sunday.
“We’re in a scenario that is trickier than in the previous two years,” Groupama-FDJ supervisor Marc Madiot advised reporters.
“In the final two editions, there was some uncertainty and everybody was being tremendous cautious. Nowadays there is not any obligation, for the normal inhabitants, to be cautious, which is regular.
“But for us there might be massive penalties. It’s like gangrene. When it is right here, it spreads quick.”
France’s Mikael Cherel took a fatalistic method.
“That’s the recreation. COVID isn’t a lot a well being drawback for us, it is extra that we’re out of the recreation, out of the race and we lose a giant goal for the workforce and for ourselves, that is the damaging half. In the finish it isn’t so dangerous,” the AG2R-Citroen rider stated.
“I put it into perspective, we mustn’t get upset about it, there’s nothing we will do about it. The decide of peace shall be tomorrow with the checks however when a rider would not present any signs there isn’t a purpose for it to cease.”
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Christian Radnedge)