The Tour de France launched into its last week on Tuesday, with greater than 500 miles of racing left and solely 40 seconds separating the chief from his closest pursuer.
The area has already coated 15 levels, racked up nearly 1,650 miles and misplaced 20 cyclists, none of them to the coronavirus, regardless of early issues that the race may set off new waves of infections in a rustic that has seen a surge of circumstances in latest weeks. On Tuesday, the Tour introduced that 785 extra exams — performed on Sunday and Monday on riders, workers members of the 22 groups and race officers — all had come again unfavourable.
It has not precisely been enterprise as ordinary, nevertheless. Fans of the Tour have been scarcer on the edges of the street, and selfies and autographs are forbidden. Riders placed on masks as quickly as they cross the end line, and function in a restricted atmosphere, although that has not been foolproof: Last week, Christian Prudhomme, the race’s director, examined constructive for the coronavirus, together with a couple of workforce workers members.
But for probably the most half, the stringent protocols put in place to maintain the 2020 version protected look like working. And within the absence of virus drama, a lot of the eye has been directed towards these excelling — or struggling — on their bikes.
Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic of Team Jumbo-Visma is main the race, however his good pal and countryman Tadej Pogacar of Team Emirates is barely 40 seconds behind after profitable a mountain stage on Sunday. Germany’s Lennard Kamna gained Tuesday’s 16th stage, properly forward of the leaders, who — protected by their teammates — saved shut watch on each other from the relative security of the entrance of the primary pack.
With six levels left earlier than the race’s arrival on the Champs-Élysées on Sunday, Roglic and Pogacar will take their struggle for the yellow jersey into the French Alps this week, together with on a much-anticipated stage on Wednesday with a harrowing mountain climb to the end near the ski resort city of Méribel that has by no means appeared on the Tour’s route. “It’s unprecedented,” Prudhomme stated in regards to the Col de la Loze. Many anticipate the destiny of this yr’s Tour to be sealed there.
Pogacar stated this week that his technique could be to attempt to shut the hole on Roglic within the mountains after which attempt to take the yellow jersey in a time trial on Saturday. He completed forward of Roglic on the Slovenian time trial championships earlier this yr, beat him in a dash to the road on Sunday after which tried — and failed — to do it once more on Tuesday.
“The perfect scenario would be to take it on the evening of the final time trial but we live in a real world,” Pogacar stated. “If there’s a chance to take it, I will try.”
Until Sunday, final yr’s winner, Egan Bernal, was third behind Roglic and Pogacar. But the Colombian star misplaced floor and fell to 13th over all, leaving his possibilities of repeating because the Tour champion — or of even climbing onto the awards podium in Paris on Sunday — nearly nonexistent.
“There are riders that are stronger than me, and we need to accept it,” Bernal advised journalists on Sunday. “I had no power,” he added. “I haven’t had the legs.”
Still, Bernal, the primary Colombian (and the primary South American) to win the Tour, stated he would give his finest out of respect for the race. On Sunday, he posted an image of himself wincing in ache on his Twitter account. “Long live to the Tour,” he wrote in French.
The Tour de France was initially scheduled for July, however delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Organizers have tried to keep up this yr’s version by maintaining the racers in a so-called bubble, with each rider required to put on face masks earlier than and after every stage, and workers members ordered to do the identical at the same time as they trip collectively within the vehicles that accompany the peloton.
Team docs have needed to full day by day well being checklists for each rider and workers member to allow them to be remoted if any signs of attainable an infection seem. Prudhomme, the race director, was allowed to return on Tuesday solely after self-isolating and testing unfavourable.
Besides Bernal’s collapse on Sunday, one other shock this yr has been the poor efficiency of French riders, a number of of whom have been favorites for the yellow jersey or the rostrum. Through 16 levels, there isn’t a single Frenchman within the total prime 10.
One French favourite, Romain Barnet, dropped out after sustaining a concussion in a crash. Another, Thibault Pinot, crashed on the primary day and by no means appeared to regain his stride. He misplaced all hope of profitable when he was left behind in Stage 8, dropping greater than 25 minutes in a single day, and stated his solely objective now was to complete the race.
“The Tour is not over,” he stated after dropping out of competition final week. “I never thought about quitting.”