Running the 2021 Tour de France in COVID-safe fashion

The organisation that runs the Tour de France - the Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) - has released a tough set of rules that are designed to prevent the spread of COVID at the Tour de France, a year on from an event that saw no riders infected during the racing.

107th Tour de France 2020 - Stage 16

Primoz Roglic removes his face mask just prior to the start of Stage 16 of the 2020 Tour de France. Source: Getty

2020 saw the coronavirus pandemic sweep the world, with the Tour de France not immune from its consequences, delayed until August in a re-jigging of the cycling season.

Even that start was plagued with difficulties, as case numbers rocketed up in the regions containing the start and finish of the Tour - the Alpes-Maritime and the greater Paris areas both hotspots for the virus. 

A few cases ahead of the race within the 'race bubble' foretold problems ahead, but the Tour de France had a charmed run to Paris, with no active cases in the peloton, though race director Christian Prudhomme and several team staff did test positive and had to isolate from the race.


In 2021, ASO have maintained a focus on prevention of the spread of infection, though the spread of the virus within France is significantly reduced from the worst levels of case spread.

French cases are below 1,000 new infections a day, but with the Tour de France peloton and staff hailing from all around the world, strict precautions are still necessary.

Returning in 2021, the system of a strict 'race bubble', without interaction from anyone outside the prescribed list of riders, team staff, officials and the in-race organisation.

From the directive issued to attendees at the Tour de France, 'Strict health and sanitary measures will be applied for the relevant people within the bubble so as to guarantee their protection and limit as much as possible any interaction with other people outside this bubble'.

Beyond the race bubble, the travelling logistical organisation of the Tour de France, including staff, media, sponsors and the Tour caravan will all undergo tests and interact within specified Tour de France areas that will avoid contact with anyone within the race bubble.

Accredited persons must comply with additional health measures: compulsory pre-race tests, protective measures and social distancing while in Tour de France areas, though these people are not separated from the public.

For both the race bubble and the accredited Tour de France workers, either a negative test less than 72 hours before the race or proof of vaccination will be required for entry to the Tour. 

The vaccines accepted by France are the ones recognised by the European Medicines Agency: Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.

The public who attend the Tour de France by the roadside aren't being explicitly asked to stay away from the race route this year and instead supporters 'will be invited to respect the protective and social distancing measures in force'.

A mobile prevention team will be present along the race course and a public awareness campaign will be launched by the Tour de France.

There may be a hiccup with the race route heading into Andorra for Stage 15, and while tests won't be required for entry into the country, subsequent re-entry to France will require a negative PCR or Antigen test 72 hours before arrival back in France.

That will see a mass re-testing of the Tour de France organisation during the second rest day.

Hygienic measures will be observed in all areas controlled by the Tour de France, with face masks mandatory in accredited areas as well as in vehicles carrying two or more people. 

No third parties (e.g. family and friends) can be invited to the Tour de France areas at the start or finish of the stages this year.

In addition to the preventative measures, a special COVID-19 task force - including an infection specialist and set up under the control of the medical chief of the Tour de France - will be on-site during the event.

A mobile laboratory will be available to carry out tests during the Tour de France if necessary in case of symptoms.

In what is a complicated event to operate, let alone when adding the additional protocols required for COVID-19 prevention, it's apparent that the ASO are having to institute stringent measures to run such a large, moving event again successfully. 

Every moment of the 2021 Tour de France will be live on SBS, with the ŠKODA Tour Tracker app, SBS television, SBS On Demand and SBS Cycling Central the places to be to catch all the pulsating action from France from June 26 to July 18.

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4 min read
Published 15 June 2021 at 1:06pm
By SBS Cycling Central
Source: SBS