Masks in Place, the Tour de France Puts On a Brave Face

Aug 28, 2020 · 59 comments
Joan Greenfield (New York NY)
The first stage of the Tour ended nearly 12 hours ago. It was dramatic and dangerous and, yes, the stage was completed and a man won. But not a word of reporting in the Times. What kind of sports section is this?
Charles Focht (Lost in America)
This event continues to be a Tour de Farce.
William Romp (Vermont)
Tifosi here: this will be the 44th tour that I have followed closely. My two cents: the Amaury Sport Organization, which operates the tour, could have taken the moral and civic high ground by cancelling this year's tour; I think they should have. Cancelling the tour during the two World Wars did not kill the Tour or harm the sport. This year is in that category. But it's not my decision. If they are racing, I am watching. And I wish them a positive outcome. I'm rooting for Bernal and his Ineos squad. Allez.
Ignatius J. Reilly (hot dog cart)
"Prudhomme dismissed such concerns, arguing that it was “everyone’s responsibility” to respect the protocols. “I don’t see how people wouldn’t respect the rules,” he said." Dude never heard of Lance Armstrong or the many other riders who doped over the years to gain a competitive edge.
Planetary Occupant (Earth)
Brave, but hopefully not folly. Good luck to all.
Nick W (Sacramento)
I absolutely love the tour. Look forward to it every year. Went to it in 2017 during our honeymoon, it's an amazing experience as a spectator. But I think it's insane to do this race and not expect multiple Covid outbreaks. Should be cancelled.
DeepSouthEric (Spartanburg)
There has been a tremendous amount of professional bike racing since the season resumed post-COVID about two months ago. The TDF is just the one race Americans are familiar with. The guys riding the TDF are the same ones from all the other races. Generally, so far so good. There was one incident in the Tour de Wallonie where a couple Ineos riders came up positive - the whole team got pulled from the race immediately. Dozens of other races have pulled off without a hitch. Cycling lends itself well to being a "bubble sport" - the sport is so grueling, there is very little room for celebrations and antics post- race. Many cyclists eschew alcohol completely during race season, thus eliminating a major source of poor judgement.
George S. (NY & LA)
@DeepSouthEric While other competitive cycling events may be relatively "safe"; this is unlikely to be the case with the TDF. No other event attracts the huge crowds that line the roads such as the Tour. Literally, town throughout the route become tourist festivals crowded with spectators, vendors etc. The risks are not "limited" to cyclists who may be in some sort of "bubble" (which itself is questionable). The TDF is a near month-long rolling spectacle that attracts huge crowds of fans and such. Simply put, it's not just about protecting the riders. It's about not creating a potential rolling social "hotspot". This is the wrong year for such huge crowd events.
Michael Browder (Chamonix, France)
@DeepSouthEric This is also a LOT longer to keep the teams, support staff, etc. safe than the other races run this season. Don't see it finishing myself, but would be happy to be wrong.
Mutt Furball (The Great Flyover)
Sure, it’s fun to watch but, this is a really, really, bad idea.
Libby (Tardian)
Sport is back.
George S. (NY & LA)
As a committed, fitness-oriented, cyclist I usually pay at least moderate attention to the Tour each year -- if only to follow the rider standings in the NYT's Sports section and watch a few highlights of Stages. I have very mixed feelings about running the Tour this year. Firstly, although the photos show riders wearing masks -- I wonder if this will remain the case in the actual peloton? I know that except when heading through the City to a ride start here -- I drop my mask when on the open road to ensure good breathing. I cannot believe that the riders, closely packed in the peloton, will remain "masked" much as they should. FWIW, when cycling clubs here first started dealing with Covid issues -- one big concern was that riders no longer "launch snot rockets" when riding near others. It will happen on the Tour! Secondly, there is no way that the spectator crowds will avoid becoming Covid contagion spread "hot spots". Already France is seeing a rising "second wave" of contagion such that mask-wearing is now required in all public areas of Paris and other cities. How are local officials scattered throughout France going to police such requirements? Simply put -- much as I love cycling myself and enjoy watching at least some of the Tour on TV -- I do not think they should run the event this year. First off, it's too risky. Second, if there is a major outbreak linked to the Tour either among riders or spectators it will disgrace the sport.
Douglas ritter (Bassano)
No masks while riding, just like all the other bike races this summer.
Peter Lemonjello (Washington)
Watch for Sepp Kuss, the next American star. He's a climbing specialist and could very well pull-off a stage win!
maybemd (Maryland)
@Peter Lemonjello Hope this year's TDF doesn't kill him or leave him permanently debilitated, with compromised lung capacity, a damaged heart, brain or neurological or muscle damage, weakened kidneys, or etc. 2020's Tour should have been cancelled. Holding events like this is beyond irresponsible; it should be made criminal. At the very least, event operators should be held responsible for not just the medical costs of the athletes, but of every town and community through which the routes pass.
M Martínez (Miami)
Thanks for this article and the photographs. Love you,```` New York Times.
Jens (Chicago, IL)
I think my main question is: how are the riders/teams going to safely conduct blood transfusions throughout the race? If a rider tested positive for COVID while training in the mountains two months ago, when that blood is re-infused during the tour, will that cause the rider to recontract COVID?
tim harpur (melbourne,aus)
@Jens if it is only 2 months they might get away with it.
Daisy Mae (New York) an avid and devoted Tour fan I cannot believe they are running the race this year. Everyday could be the last day.
Hollis (Barcelona)
Would love to see September weather and not the virus be a protagonist in this year’s race. My son and I both have Tadej Pogačar and Guillaume Martin featured on our Velogames fantasy squads.
Kathy B (Fort Collins)
I haven't missed a second of a stage of any Tour since it has been broadcasted on TV in the U.S. I'm thrilled it will take place this year, but worried about the riders. It might be a blessing in disguise for part of the route. If the excessive, obnoxious crowds on the mountain stages show up in lower numbers, the riders will be safer. They absolutely need to add more police to control those crowds, and Covid gives them a reason to do so.
sofaman (Norwalk, CT)
Slightly missing from this is the fact that cycling fans are eagerly looking forward to potentially one of the best Tours in history. After years of dominance by British Team Sky (now Ineos) the Dutch squad Jumbo/Visma has made terrific star signings to build up a true contender for the yellow jersey. Not only that but there's a sense that more riders have the potential to challenge for the lead, than fans have ever seen. So, yes is the world starving for sport. But late last season, even before COVID, there was talk of this year being a perfect storm of emerging talent and team building. There's little doubt this will be a race to remember.
maybemd (Maryland)
@sofaman Sigh. Hope all fans and participants agree that this year's tour is to die for.
Ambrose (Nelson, Canada)
I was going to say that surely the riders don't have to wear masks while riding, which was my first impression. They don't and that's obviously good because riding in a mask is restricting and probably unnecessary. Non-Tour cyclists take note.
Jens (Chicago, IL)
"Prudhomme dismissed such concerns, arguing that it was “everyone’s responsibility” to respect the protocols. “I don’t see how people wouldn’t respect the rules,” he said." Because historically teams have been quite respectful of the rules...
PaulyDR (Falls Church)
@Jens Yes!!! What a ridiculously ignorant statement to make!
Erin (Albany, NY)
This further illustrates how different the situation is with COVID in Europe than the USA. The virus is under control enough in France to make the TdF a reality in 2020 -- this makes me very happy! I am hoping against hope that it is a success so that the Giro d'Italia (which is truly the best - in all ways - of the Grand Tours) and the Vuelta a Espana can both go forward this fall. The idea of three back to back GTs this fall is exciting! Can't wait to watch them all.
O Franklin (Austin)
Oh thank the Lord that the Tour is on! What a magic opportunity to escape. I love it every year and was missing it mightily. Vive la France!
SFOYVR (-49)
Priceless quote from Prudhomme: "I don't see how people wouldn't respect the rules." Just like they did with the doping rules.
John Mullowney (OHIO)
Safety first.... Maybe 2021 would be better.....
Aaron Capone (Pittsburgh)
I suspect the team doctors will find symptoms of fatigue and shortness of breath.
RuralDoc (ME)
@Aaron Capone I was trying to figure out how you would separate fatigue from a hill stage from Covid
Maggi (Chicago)
I sincerely hope that the Tour is safe and successful for everyone. I watch every year and enjoy the fierce competition & beautiful scenery. One way to improve safety is to block fans from the summit finishes. The fans getting right up in the faces of the riders to cheer them on is unique to biking, but it needs to stop this year. Although the contenders will miss the cheering, they have also had serious safety issues in the past and I suspect many would welcome an empty road at the summit. Fortunately, the French fans have no problem wearing masks, so that should improve safety. Now if they could just get rid of the dudes wearing the Borat suits.
In the wheels (AZ)
I'm overjoyed the Tour is returning. I'll be in front of the TV at 5:00 a.m. But, I'm worried about the riders, soigneurs, mechanics and directors. Even these young athletes with miraculous VO2 max levels can be devastated.
Alex (New York)
It's nice morale boost that the tour is moving forward. I'm hopeful that the health measures that are implemented will keep the riders and their teams relatively safe in their tour bubble. If they manage to pull this off without a significant spike, then perhaps this will embolden more sports to become active again--as long as they have an outdoor venue.
Paul B (San Jose, Calif.)
Daily Increase in French COVID cases (7-day average) 7/1: 636 8/1: 1,056 8/27: 5,381 Gee, I wonder where things are headed? I love the Tour but I guess we're going to find out definitively how COVID-19 affects the lungs of athletes and also whether outside gatherings can be super-spreading events. Just in case, I still have last year's tour recording.
Harvey (Denver)
@Paul B they just raced the Criterium du Dauphine and several other races in France and it was fine...they will isolate and have been isolating the riders....
Matt (Salem, OR)
The Tour de France is my annual stay-cation; never better suited than this year. The coverage on NBC is top notch because they understand that the French scenery is just as important as the race.
In the wheels (AZ)
Bobke has admirably stepped into Paul's shoes. And now that Christian can get out a complete sentence without being interrupted by a second thought and eating half his words, it really is top notch. Still miss Paul, though.
maybemd (Maryland)
@Matt Yeah, hope we won't all be watching a tragedy as it unfolds.
Andrew Porter (Brooklyn Heights)
@Matt I used to watch with the sound turned off, because those helicopter views of chateaus, mountains and miles of sunflower fields are gorgeous. The final leg, helicopter views over Paris, shows the inside the city blocks and overhead views one would never get by walking down the streets as a tourist.
Lynda (Gulfport, FL)
In my household we are eagerly waiting to view the Tour. Our TV service has been smart in showing highlights of past tours (excluding Lance Armstrong) so we are ready for the race in 2020. It was too bad there were injuries at the Criterium du Dauphine this year. I think the shut downs because of COVID-19 had an impact on training which made injuries more likely. We may never view cycling to the extent events were available in the past years.
tim (melbourne,aus)
@Lynda it's a little harsh that your TV service isn't showing Lance also, given that the chemically enhanced would have been featuring prominently in the highlights that they did show.
Bradley Bleck (Spokane, WA)
I had planned to be in Nice for the original start but the date change and the exclusion of American travelers quashed that. I've seen the Tour once and it's quite the spectacle in the lead up to a day's stage, truly a bucket-list event for any cyclist or others who follow the sport. I wish them well and hope the whole of the race goes off with only race related controversy.
Jay (Mercer Island)
I remember Roche’s tour win well as he did have to battle very hard for it. In fall of ‘87 I cycle toured in Ireland and it was great to see the recognition he was receiving. Interesting that his son has had a long career in the same sport. I hope he and everyone else stays safe.
Greg (M)
It appear that this year's route is entirely in France, which is fairly uncommon. Was it originally planned that way?
J Lane (MD)
@Greg Yes - I believe so. Nice was the start as planned since last year.
Steve Ell (Burlington , Vermont)
Vive Le Tour! Watching the tour is one of my favorite things, but I hope the organizers will do the right thing. It may not be the same if the devil isn’t running alongside the riders on a mountaintop finish, but everybody must be protected. If it means an abbreviated race or even no race, so be it. Spreading the coronavirus is not an option.
O Franklin (Austin)
@Steve Ell Well put. Hopefully the devil will not be running alongside! More barricades, wider paths!
Aaron (Phoenix)
Most of the riders, especially the younger riders, probably do not want to compete (COVID-19 can cause career-ending lung damage), but if they refuse they could possibly still end up losing their career. Cycling is an exceptionally dangerous sport; asking the riders to take on additional risk seems very wrong. This decision is about money, not what’s in the best interests of the athletes.
Harvey (Denver)
@Aaron Not what I'm hearing from the pro riders I
Neil (Texas)
I want Primož Roglič to win. These athletes are not our American cry babies. After Armstrong has been purged, these kids are clean and take their sport seriously. I love watching the race. Had planned to be there at least for mountain stages- but Wuhan hit. I was also going to root for Egan Bernal - the young Colombian who won last year. But living in Bogota, I have found Colombians are some of the rudest, aggressive and arrogant cyclists. Here, they all think they are ready for a Yellow Jersey. But they follow no traffic rules. The worst part is they ride in sidewalks when there are cycling lanes set aside along just about every road. But they don't care for others. I lived in Copehagen - the cycling capital of the world. They are some of the most polite cyclists at least as compared to the Colombians. As a result, I doubt I will ever support another Colombian rider.
Lance Mannion (Glasgow)
@Neil - “ these kids are clean”....Where did you go to medical school?.....and you can tell this through your television/computer screen ?!!!
Lance Mannion (Glasgow)
@Neil - “ these kids are clean”....Where did you go to medical school?.....and you can tell this through your television/computer screen ?!!!
Bruce (South Carolina this)
Is doping just an American idea? I think not.
SEAN (Phila)
God Bless The Tour and All the Riders...
August West (Midwest)
I love Le Tour. But holding it this year is flat wrong, and for obvious reasons. Sacre bleu!
Cecil Buddy (Washington, D.C.)
I had to laugh at Tour director Prudhomme's comment about teams/riders honestly reporting virus symptoms, etc. : it is “everyone’s responsibility” to respect the protocols. “I don’t see how people wouldn’t respect the rules,” he said. Hmmm . . . All those years of doping and he is still finds it incroyable that riders might be less than honest.
Lou S. (Clifton, NJ)
@Cecil Buddy BINGO!
See also