Tour de France: COVID-19 exclusion rules toughened on race day one

The new regulations from the French government’s interministerial committee, which overrules the UCI, cover support staff as well as riders.

Spectators wait for the start of the first stage of the race on Saturday in Nice, France.   -  REUTERS

French health authorities have introduced stricter regulations for exclusions from the Tour de France in the event of coronavirus cases, hours before the race is due to start.

The government’s interministerial crisis committee has ruled that a team should be pulled out if two or more of its members test positive within seven days, race organisers said on Saturday. Until now this year’s race, which gets under way in Nice on Saturday, was operating under International Cycling Union (UCI) guidelines for teams to be excluded if two or more riders were to test positive over the same period.

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The new regulations from the committee, which overrules the UCI, cover support staff as well as riders, organisers told Reuters.

Tour teams comprise eight riders and a maximum of 22 support staff.

Organisers, however, said that the Lotto Soudal team, which saw two staff members test COVID-positive on Thursday, remained in the race because the stricter measure did not take effect until Saturday.

Organisers have admitted there is a risk of the race not reaching Paris as numbers of coronavirus cases have been rising steadily in France since the beginning of the August.