Teams on R-rate alert as second wave fears grow
Fears of a second wave of Covid-19 infections in France, as well as concerns over the reliability of testing for the virus, have contributed to a growing sense of uncertainty ahead of the Tour de France, which begins in Nice tomorrow.
France’s R-value rose to 1.4 yesterday according to Jean Castex, the prime minister, who admitted that the resurgence of coronavirus was “undeniable” and could spread “exponentially” if the country did not react quickly.
A national alert will be triggered if the R-rate rises above 1.5. Nice, a popular holiday destination, is already at that level. Provence-AlpesCote d’Azur, which contains coastal regions including Nice and St
Tropez, has an R-rate of 1.52, one of the worst in the country.
It is into this climate of uncertainty that the biggest cycling race in the world has arrived, with 22 teams and their attendant staff, plus broadcasters, media and fans.
The chief concern at this stage, other than for general safety or the possibility of a second lockdown, appears to be the “two strikes and you’re out” rule, which organiser ASO has communicated to teams. Two positive tests from any members of a team will result in that team having to leave the race.
However, there have been instances of false positives reported. Earlier this week, Bora-Hansgrohe withdrew their team from the
‘Right now it’s two positives and you go home, but that could even be modified by the time we start’
Bretagne Classic after a rider tested positive, only for a second test to come back negative.
The Daily Telegraph has spoken to a senior member at another team who said they had a scare on the way to Nice when one of their bus drivers tested positive, necessitating a search for a replacement. Finally one was located, only for the first driver to call the next day and inform his team that his second test had come back negative.
The possibility that a team might have to quit the race, only to find that one or both of their positive tests was faulty, is a concern. “It is known that PCR tests have a certain rate of error and thus produce false positive results,” Ralph Denk, the
Bora-Hansgrohe manager, said this week. “This in itself would not be a problem if there were the possibility to check the results immediately in the case of a positive finding.”
ASO is apparently considering amending the rule before tomorrow’s Grand Depart. “Right now it’s two positives and you go home, but that could be modified by the time we even start,” said Matt White, the Mitchelton-Scott sports director.
Sir Dave Brailsford, the Ineos Grenadiers team principal, said common sense should prevail, with the role of the team member taken into account. “For me, it’s about the interpretation of the rules and what we are trying to achieve, which is a safe race,” he said.
Ready to start: The Tour de France Grand Depart takes place in Nice tomorrow