Teams on R-rate alert as sec­ond wave fears grow

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - Tom Cary

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

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