Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme was one of five individuals on the race to test positive for coronavirus as it was given a stark reminder of the tight rope on which it continues to operate.
As the race prepared to resume with stage 10 to Ile de Re, Tour organisers ASO and cycling’s world governing body the UCI jointly announced that of 841 tests conducted on riders, teams staff and other officials during Monday’s rest day, five had come back positive.
None of those included riders but the Ineos Grenadiers, Mitchelton-Scott, AG2R La Mondiale and Cofidis all had an individual staff member test positive.
That leaves those teams, including Ineos’ defending champion Egan Bernal, facing a nervous few days as a second positive test for any of the respective teams would see them excluded from the race under protocols agreed on the eve of the Grand Depart in Nice.
“No rider has tested positive for Covid-19 or is considered a contact case requiring quarantine,” the release said
But while the staff members concerned have now left the race, the most visible sign of the problem confronting the Tour will be the absence of Prudhomme, the charismatic Frenchman in charge of the whole circus.
ASO said in a statement Prudhomme had undergone four tests in the last month, and had chosen to be part of the testing programme though not technically part of the race bubble and not “in direct contact with any or the riders or their entourage”.
Prudhomme will now quarantine for seven days but could return to the race during next week’s rest day in Isère.
He will be replaced in the director’s car by Francois Lemarchand but there will be concerns over his recent contacts given a large part of his role involves meeting and greeting dignitaries along the way.
On Saturday, French Prime Minister Jean Castex spent part of stage eight in Prudhomme’s car.
There had been concerns throughout the weekend, when the race moved into the Pyrenees, that a number of fans congregating at the road side were failing to follow guidance to wear masks and keep their distance from riders, heightening the risk of positive tests within the peloton becoming the defining story of this unique Tour.