According to press-agency reports, Tour de France organiser ASO is set to ban fans from getting any closer to the teams and riders than 100 metres at stage starts and 300 metres at stage finishes due to the risk of the coronavirus in France’s so-called ‘red zones’
One such zone is France’s Ain department, where stage 15 finishes on the Grand Colombier, and which has moved to prevent spectators from standing on the final two climbs on Sunday.
“The system will sensibly be the same as at Paris-Nice,” ASO’s director general, Yann Le Moenner, told Reuters on Friday, referring to the measures at March’s French stage race – which is also owned by ASO – whereby spectators weren’t permitted any closer than 100 metres to the start podium and 300 metres from the stage finish.
Fears have been growing in France of a second wave of COVID-19, and 9,406 new cases were reported by the health ministry between Thursday and Friday, according to Reuters. The total number of people in France having been infected now stands at 363,350, with 30,893 people now having died in France.
A red zone is declared when there are more than 50 new cases recorded per 100,000 inhabitants in the last seven days. 42 of France’s 96 departments are currently red.
The next three stages of the race start and finish in red zones, with stage 14 heading to Lyon in the Rhône department, followed by Sunday’s stage 15 in Ain. Monday’s rest day is followed by a stage from La Tour-du-Pin to Villard-de-Lans in the Isère department, but the race then leaves the red zone – as it stands – on stage 17 to head into the high Alps. Stage 19 returns to Ain for a start in Bourg-en-Bresse but leaves the red zone to finish in Champagnole before the penultimate-day time trial in the Haute-Saône. Paris, which hosts the final stage, is currently a red zone.
Meanwhile, French sports newspaper L’Equipe reported on Friday evening that the Ain department had released a statement announcing the banning of spectators on the final two climbs on stage 15 on Sunday: the Col de la Biche and the summit finish at the Col du Grand Colombier.
“Access to the Col du Grand Colombier and the Col de la Biche will be prohibited from Saturday, September 12, 2020, at noon to Sunday, September 13, 2020 at 8pm,” it read. “No spectators, gatherings or demonstrations will therefore be allowed.
“The rapid deterioration of the health situation [means that Ain] is now one of the 42 departments where the circulation of the virus is more active,” the Ain statement concluded.
The first of the stage’s three categorised climbs – the first-category Montée de la Selle de Fromentel – appears not to be included in the ban.
Stage 15 starts in the city of Lyon on Sunday, in the Rhône department, and quickly moves into the department of Isère, after approximately 15 kilometres. It then crosses into the Ain department with just over 60 kilometres of the stage’s 175km total distance covered, with the first-category Montée de la Selle de Fromentel and Col de la Biche, and the summit finish at the hors-catégorie Grand Colombier, all coming in the second half of the stage.