Ceyzériat (France) (AFP)
Without the right to make mistakes, three weeks before the capital deadline of the Tour de France, cycling after is adjusting race after race to the Covid-19 context to avoid the dark scenario of a case that is broadcasts in the peloton.
Never before has the Tour de l'Ain, a third-tier race in the world, been so much in the spotlight and it is as much by its + all star + line-up, which lured the Slovenian (for Primoz Roglic) and Dutch (for Tom Dumoulin and Steven Kruijswijk) than for its health management.
After a videoconference with the International Cycling Union (UCI) which provided "feedback from the first events", the organizers received a directive on Thursday morning not to allow the media to access the teams' car parks, explains the director of the organization Philippe Colliou
And this is not the only difference compared to the Route d'Occitanie, the first race contested in France since the deconfinement, where the boss of the British team Ineos, Sir Dave Brailsford, did not appreciate the presence of some unmasked journalists, around his black and burgundy coach.
No signings podium at the start of the 1st stage for the runners either on Friday but a parade to avoid a concentration of the public, obviously deprived of photos and autographs.
"It's rather pleasant to be honest," quipped at the start, in his usual bittersweet humor, the winner of the Tour de France 2018 Geraint Thomas, "rather happy" with "the calm around the bus".
Before giving the bottom of his thought: "No, there is obviously much less chaos at the start but let's hope that the atmosphere is the same as usual on the roadside, we'll see."
If the organizers have the possibility of controlling the wearing of the mask and the respect of the barrier gestures at departures and arrivals, the operation is more complex on the road.
- Spectators who "shout 40 cm" from the runners -
Julien Bernard (Trek) was able to see this during his breakaway on the mountain stage of the Route d'Occitanie on Monday: "People don't realize that when they come to shout at 40 centimeters to encourage us, there is a risk, "said the French runner on Friday in Ain.
Same observation with Alexis Vuillermoz (AG2R - La Mondiale) who also continues after four days of racing in Occitania: "In the euphoria, some forget to apply the basic rules", he regrets.
"I understand that they do not want to keep a mask in full sun under these temperatures but it would be good if they put it on when we are there", suggests Julien Bernard while stressing that the organizers "are trying as best they can" .
"In the advertising caravan, we broadcast prevention messages asking to wear masks when distance is not possible", details Philippe Colliou who "relies on the collective intelligence" of followers.
- Overdue test result -
"These are only the first races. At the end of this week, the organizers and the UCI will be able to take stock", projects the sporting director of AG2R - La Mondiale Julien Jurdie who also retains difficulties with virological tests.
"We are dependent on the laboratories which must send us the results", explains this leader.
One of his riders, tested as required by the UCI directives on D-3 and therefore on Tuesday, had still not received his result by late Thursday afternoon. A chance that the rules allow to take the test up to four hours before departure.
© 2020 AFP