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Fans heading to the Tour de France this year might not see things as dramatically different as many expect for a race being held in the midst of a world pandemic.
Though details of final safety protocols are not yet finalized for the Tour, set to run August 29 to September 20, Tour boss Christian Prudhomme said that race officials will be using a similar security blueprint it rolled out in 2016 in the aftermath of a wave of terror attacks that shook France to its core.
“It will be the first time that we’ve used this system during a pandemic, but we’ve already been using similar measures since 2016,” Prudhomme said this weekend at a meeting with local mayors in western France. “This year, it’s only different because of COVID-19. It’s just like since 2013, when we already reduced the number of public on the ‘cols.’ So the measures are already there.”
In 2015, a string of horrific attacks in Paris prompted French security officials to remake security measures for the wide-open, three-week bike race. Prudhomme said many of those measures, which included roadblocks, increased security and police forces along the route, and a reduction of traffic in and around main access points, will remain in place for this summer’s COVID-19 edition.
More COVID-specific steps will be forthcoming, but Prudhomme said fans will already be familiar with many of the security and health protocols that will be required to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus because they’ve already been in place since 2016.
“Will we be wearing masks in the ASO public spaces? If the Tour was held today, yes,” said Prudhomme in a video posted on Cyclisme’Actu.net. “We will know more by the beginning of August. In any case, the security forces asked us to be ready [for both scenarios].”
Additional health measures are expected to be rolled out for the Tour, including a smaller publicity caravan and the implementation of social distancing that will remake the start and finish-line protocols at each stage.
Many have been wondering about how the Tour will look in pandemic conditions. Prudhomme’s comments suggest that, at least for the general public, there won’t be too many new protocols unfamiliar to anyone who has attended the Tour over the past few years after security protocols were stepped up dramatically.
Stricter application of social distancing and the possible use of face masks could be likely, but officials are waiting to see how conditions develop over the next several weeks before signing off on final rules and details for the rescheduled 2020 Tour.
Last month, the UCI introduced its roadmap for how racing might look in the pandemic, which focuses mainly on teams and competition. The Tour organization will be the ones trying to keep the public safe but also allow some fans to attend the race if possible.
Prudhomme, who confirmed the publicity caravan will be reduced by 40 percent, said he is hopeful the public will be able to watch the race by the roadside just as tradition calls for, but with the possibility of some limitations.
“The Tour de France will be more important than ever,” Prudhomme said. “What will be different? The fact that the Tour comes two months later means there will already be less people on the side of the road. The publicity caravan won’t be as big.
“There will be fewer people, but the same smiles will be there, and the race will be broadcast on television,” he said to a large media presence. “From what I can tell here today, there is quite a bit of interest in the Tour de France.”