The Tour de France will again enforce a COVID-19 protocol in this year’s race, with positive cases at the recent Giro d’Italia highlighting concerns that even while the pandemic is officially over, the virus can still have a major influence on races.
On May 5th 2023 the World Health Organisation declared that the COVID-19 pandemic was no longer a global health emergency. However, in the 2023 Giro d’Italia a spate of cases in the first half of the race, notably causing overall leader Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) to quit the race, heightened fears of the virus’ ability to affect professional cycling.
In 2022, 16 riders abandoned the Tour after catching COVID-19 and five quit the race before it started for the same reason. There were 135 finishers last year, the lowest total since 2000.
The UCI and Tour de France organiser ASO have confirmed that for the fourth year running, masks and social distancing measures will be in force at the Tour de France, although not as strict as for the last three years.
As was already the case in 2022, riders will not automatically have to leave the race if they test positive, with a joint decision made by the UCI, ASO and the team involved after further testing. It is possible that riders can race on if they have a proven low viral load.
A UCI press statement earlier this week underlined that the measures for the 2023 Tour were based on their 2023 anti-COVID protocol, which “has been regularly updated in line with the evolving health situation since it first came into force in 2020.”
The UCI pointed out that the health pass, vaccination certificate and negative COVID-19 tests prior to competition were no longer required by teams, UCI staff or organisers. It described the preventative measures “put in place by organisers Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) – limited access and masks required in certain zones for the race convoy and followers – are in adequation with the UCI protocol.”