Friday, October 23, 2020

Tour ‘in the bubble’ remains exciting


The Tour de France 2020 is proving to be a race the likes of which the French and cycling enthusiasts have never seen before … both on and off the track.

Shorn of its usual start date in July, race organisers, the Amaury Sport Organisation, has been forced to introduce a raft of measures designed to combat the spread of Covid-19.

Teams have been limited to a total of 30 riders and staff, all of whom are required to be tested by a mobile unit twice per day. Two positive tests will see the team removed from the race.

The 21 stages of the tour visit all five of France’s mountain ranges and the course has already seen several thrills and spills. As reported by the GDN, Team Bahrain McLaren’s Rafa Valls had to withdraw after fracturing his right femur in a crash during the opening stage, for example.

Off the course it may not been proving as painful but the experience still has plenty of challenges, Bahrain-based Kolja Koracak, the team’s brand director, told the GDN.

“There is so many differences behind the stages that you don’t see on TV,” he explained. “On screen you see riders wearing masks for pre-and-post-race interviews, and members of the media being further away from them.

“The whole Tour is in ‘the bubble’ so there are no journalists coming to hotels, there are no standard Press conferences – only on-line – and there are no hospitality facilities.

“You can still see fans along the roadside, but they are not allowed to mingle between the buses on the start and finish locations. Also, as well as riders and staff members being tested several times even before arriving, we all have to submit questionnaires and our temperatures every morning … and we all wear masks at all times.

“Doctors are far busier than ever before. All-in-all, it is much more different than any other Tour de France, but the racing is still the same, if not more exciting!

“The Tour de France is the biggest annual sporting event in the world with 1.7 billion people watching it on TV, it’s broadcasted to 190 countries with more than 22,000 hours on screen. There is about 1.2 billion hours of digital consumption of the Tour de France content too.

“It is the race your whole season is judged by. It is the pinnacle of everyone’s season. It’s hard to compare it to any other sport, as Tour is like Wimbledon to tennis, but even more dominant.”