But the protocols put in place to keep the race safe appeared to work, and with the riders remaining in a so-called bubble, the Tour, the most prestigious cycling race in the world, proved that a sporting event of its scale could take place in the middle of a pandemic, even as other events, like the 2020 Tokyo Olympics or this summer’s European soccer championship, were postponed to 2021.
The Coronavirus Outbreak
Sports and the Virus
Updated Sept. 18, 2020
Here’s what’s happening as the world of sports slowly comes back to life:
- One of Louisiana’s most successful high school football coaches retired, concerned that his blood cancer made him vulnerable to Covid-19. At least 30 high school and club coaches have died of the coronavirus.
- With football returning, Big Ten cities are bracing for more outbreaks. Although the games will be played without spectators in the stadiums, some officials are concerned they will lead to more off-campus gatherings that could spread the virus.
- Fans can debate whether this season’s baseball records really count. But M.L.B.’s official historian insists the achievements are as real as any other.
And while the coronavirus was largely kept out of the bubble, it remained omnipresent: The race director, Christian Prudhomme, tested positive and had to remove himself for a week, and in many instances fans cheered and ran alongside unmasked cyclists on narrow roads with their own masks down, or without a mask at all.
The Tour breathed an enormous sigh of relief last Tuesday, after all the remaining cyclists emerged negative during a final round of virus testing. Out of 176 riders, 30 abandoned the race this year, but none of the departures was linked to the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, the Tour remained the Tour, with its passionate fans and scenic climbs, its unexpected twists and age-old traditions: France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, paid a visit to the cyclists last Wednesday; favorites (and last year’s champion) abandoned the race either through injury or when it became clear they could not win; and French cyclists, riding at home, turned in another year of disappointing performances.
Many expected the fate of the Tour to be sealed on Wednesday’s Stage 17 at the Col de la Loze, a harrowing mountain climb in the French Alps that had never appeared on the race’s route. The 7,560-feet-high climb, experts said, would finally decide the duel between Pogacar and Roglic, who had led the Tour for nearly two weeks as his teammates from the Jumbo-Visma team backed him whenever Pogacar tried to make a challenge for his lead.