No Sports?

“We only stop for World Wars,” seems a foolish boast to make. I’ve followed Le Tour with greater or lesser concentration (lesser recently) for years and I’ll not even attempt to cover the evolutions of US Postal (it’s all about politics actually) and the other contending teams, mostly amounting to Sponsorship re-badging which happens at a rate that makes Formula One seem Tectonic (as a substitute for the disturbingly rapid “Glacial”).

France is the California of EU Corona (Spain is the Texas/Georgia/Alabama/Florida) and Nice, the town they started from and left again today, is a Lockdown Hotspot. If they had followed the rules imposed by the French Government at least one of the top teams couldn’t have started. They relented of course and are now operating under the rules of the Race organizers.

Yesterday’s initial Stage, held in what New Englanders call “A bit of damp,” was a farce of crashes and in the end all except those left to die on the side of the road got the same time because there was a crash in the final mile or so and like Turn Left Racing they’re all about prolonging the agony (Flaming Chunks of Twisted Metal!).

I think there is exactly 0% chance they tool up the Champs-Ẻlysées on the 20th.

But, you know, bonne chance!

Alexander Kristoff takes Tour de France yellow jersey after day of crashes
by Jeremy Whittle, The Guardian
Sat 29 Aug 2020

Alexander Kristoff of Norway became the first yellow jersey wearer in this year’s Tour de France after a chaotic opening stage in Nice was partially neutralised when almost every rider in the peloton was involved in a crash at one point or another.

The veteran sprinter Kristoff emerged from the melee, and avoided another huge crash in the final three kilometres, to hold off the current world road race champion, Mads Pedersen of Denmark, and claim the stage victory and overall race lead.

“You can’t dream of a better start,” Kristoff of UAE Team Emirates said. “We have a team of climbers and didn’t think of winning the sprints, at least not so early on, but I felt really strong in the final kilometres and going to the line, I saw I was going to win. It was an amazing feeling. I’m really proud of what I was able to do.”

Despite his past sprint successes, Kristoff had not been one of those tipped for victory, but in treacherous and chaotic conditions, his experience came to the fore. “My run-in to the Tour had not been great and I didn’t have any results to show. I crashed in the European Championships, but it didn’t affect me today,” he said. “I’m very happy – it means a lot to my career.”

But on a torrid afternoon, the 33-year-old was one of the few riders smiling as they crossed the line. The opening 186km stage winding through the hills north of Nice was punctuated by crashes, arguments and injuries, as torrential rain on the Côte d’Azur made the stage both dangerous and farcical.

As the downpour turned the steep inland roads into a skidpan, countless riders came to grief, including Pavel Sivakov of the Ineos Grenadiers, who is one of the leading support riders for the defending champion, Egan Bernal, and his teammate, Andrey Amador.

Further crashes subsequently befell the past stage winner Caleb Ewan, the French favourite Thibaut Pinot and the double Grand Tour winner Nairo Quintana. Pinot was among those involved in the huge pile-up just as the race entered the final three kilometres. Grazes were visible under his torn clothing as he pedalled, with a face like thunder, to the finish line.

But there was more controversy in the morning, when the Tour’s director, Christian Prudhomme, confirmed that the French government had forced a U-turn on the proposed relaxation of the “two strikes and you’re out” Covid-19 testing regime that was announced before the race convoy gathered in Nice.

On Friday, the UCI had issued a statement implying that the rule that required teams to withdraw from the Tour if they had two positive Covid-19 tests among their entourage in the space of a week, would apply only to the testing of riders, not support staff.

That proved short-lived however, and by the early hours of Saturday morning the French government’s pandemic task force had ordered that the Tour’s original exclusion protocols should be restored to apply to all riders and staff, within a team’s entourage.

“We remain with [a policy of] two cases out of 30 people in the same team over a period of seven days,” Prudhomme said, before explaining that the decision had been made, not by the race organisation, but by the French government.

That provoked speculation that Lotto Soudal and their Australian sprinter Ewan would be sent home as two staff members had failed mandatory pre-race Covid tests. The two staff members and their roommates left the Tour but the Belgian team started stage one nonetheless.