"David, can you take off your mask for the photo?" "No, I don't have the right anymore. These are the new guidelines. In front of his Groupama-FDJ bus, David Gaudu seems sorry but, since Saturday, ASO, the organizer of the Critérium du Dauphiné, which is also that of the Tour de France, has tightened the anti-Covid rules. The mask becomes mandatory again for all those who are allowed to approach the runners. And they are forbidden to sign autographs. As in a return to the past or a shift into a parallel universe at a time when the relaxation of barrier gestures is, on the contrary, total in France.
"When I came here, I was the only one wearing a mask on the plane," Alaphilippe said. But that's the price you have to pay for not being sent home before the Tour de France. »
Even if nothing is official, some teams have already learned from ASO executives that these measures would most likely be renewed for the Tour. The general public will have to be content to admire the runners from further away than last year.
If ASO does this, it is so as not to have to live what happened to their fellow organizers of the last Giro d'Italia. When Remco Evenepoel, the world champion, had to leave the race, while wearing the pink jersey, because of a positive Covid test. A disaster for the rest of the race and which had distorted the duel with the future winner, Primoz Roglic.
It should be noted that now neither the organizers nor the international federation require or pass tests before or during the events. They are left to the discretion of the teams. But the doctors of the latter believe that a positive and symptomatic runner must stop because, even today, the long-term unknowns on the cardiorespiratory consequences require to no longer solicit his body in race.
"Putting masks back on is just communication"
"I understand ASO's position of wanting to preserve the Tour," said Pascal Chanteur, the boss of the UNCP, the riders' union. But putting the masks back on is just communication. How to make believe that the Tour will be in a sealed sanitary bubble out of the real world? We walk on our heads. »
Julien Jurdie, the sporting director of AF2R-Citroën, accepts the return of constraints but notes that "it is only in cycling now that Covid makes a mess. In other sports, we don't talk about it anymore. »
Philippe Mauduit, his counterpart at Groupama-FDJ, admits that he does not really know what to do but is annoyed by this squaring of the circle imposing on his riders not to be contaminated in a world that no longer protects itself. "I give up understanding the meaning of certain decisions," he admits. Cyclists, once again, must be exemplary. There is a form of cynicism. Obviously, the health of the riders comes first. But this should be the case for all athletes, right? »