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COVID-19 tests completed as Tour de France holds its breath

Egan Bernal, Primoz Roglic and the rest of the peloton has undergone a second wave of Covid-19 swab tests with the samples sent to Paris for analysis, the Tour de France testing centre confirmed to AFP on Monday’s rest day.

Any team returning two or more positive PCR tests, be they riders, managers, doctors, masseurs or mechanics, risks being excluded from the remainder of the race.

The original idea was to ban teams where two riders tested positive but two days ahead of the Grand Depart on August 29, as much of France went on red alert with the pandemic numbers rising, the French government requested that it also include support staff.

“The final team has now been tested and these tests have now been sent to a laboratory in Paris for analysis,” a member of staff at the centre told AFP.

“The results will first be communicated to the team doctors, who must then pass those results on to the International Cycling Union.

“They in turn will inform the Tour organisers,” the official said.

The results will be announced officially on Tuesday morning ahead of stage 10, although teams may leak those results ahead of time.

Each team on this year’s trimmed down Tour was restricted to 30 members, but some arrived with as few as 25.

Four members of the Lotto-Soudal team were sent home after two mechanics returned positive tests — the other two were their room-mates.

The PCR test involves a famously queasy moment with a Q-tip inserted in each nostril and then twisted.

“It’s uncomfortable, but necessary,” Astana’s Colombian captain Miguel Angel Lopez, known as one of the peloton’s toughest guys, told AFP with a smile.

“We couldn’t have run all these races without all the precautions that have been put in place to protect us,” said the 26-year-old who was nicknamed ‘Superman’ in his homeland after fighting off three roadside thugs who foolishly tried to steal his bike when he was a teenager.

‘Living with the virus’

Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme appealed to fans to mask up and play the game on the roadsides.

While the vast majority of spectators along the route have played the game, AFP has witnessed a number of unmasked fans approaching riders on the hillsides and shouting encouragement from close range.

“It’s nowhere near as bad as most years,” said British rider Adam Yates who wore the yellow jersey for much of the first week. “For me it was all right.”

French rider Julien Alaphilippe has also been impressed that most roadside supporters are fully masked up.

“I haven’t been counting but most of people I’ve seen have been wearing a mask,” he said on Monday. 

“It’s well managed. There are people on the climbs, it’s part of the Tour. If everyone respects the rules and wears a mask, then the Tour can continue.” 

French Prime Minister Jean Castex, who was present on the Tour on Saturday, insisted it was important for France to see the Tour going ahead. 

“Living with the virus is the doctrine of the Tour and the government, but everyone must protect themselves and obey the rules so that the Tour can take place,” said Castex said.

“What I have seen today in my Pyrenees pleased me.”

Roglic, who came second in Sunday’s ninth stage, leads defending champion Ineos leader Egan Bernal by 21 seconds.

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