Slovenia's Primoz Roglic waits outside the doping control facility after the ninth stage of the Tour de France
Slovenia's Primoz Roglic waits outside the doping control facility after the ninth stage of the Tour de France
AFP

La Rochelle (France)

It's a rest day like no other for the Tour de France bunch. After nine nervous and exhausting stages that took the peloton from the Riviera to the Pyrenees via a short journey in the Alps, riders would normally take some time off on Monday with their friends and families.

But this year is different.

In addition to their recovery routine, the 166 remaining riders will stay in their own bubble, with a Damocles sword hanging over their head as they will undergo coronavirus tests that will decide whether they can keep on racing.

Under threat of cancellation at some point, more than 30,000 people in France have died after contracting the coronavirus, making the country one of the hardest-hit in Europe, the Tour has been salvaged by pushing it back from its traditional July date to end of the summer.

The price paid for the race to be run is a heavy sanitary protocol which includes mandatory COVID-19 testing for riders and teams staff members on rest days.

All were tested before the Tour started in Nice and have since lived in the race quarantine, making sure they stayed away from fans and sponsors usually omnipresent during the three weeks of the popular event.

After four staff members of the Belgian team Lotto-Soudal were sent home following abnormal coronavirus tests on the eve of the Tour, the race has been run without any further COVID-19-related incidents.

But keeping the social distancing with the roadside crowds in place has not been an easy task. During Saturday's first stage in the Pyrenees mountains, many spectators without masks did not respect the two-meter distance required by organisers as they cheered their favourite riders.

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