Jumbo-Visma boss sounds alarm over COVID threat of record Tour de France crowds

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CALAIS, France (VN) – Jumbo-Visma manager Richard Plugge is sounding the alarm over COVID-19 and the return of loud fans who are pressuring the Tour de France peloton.

Three days of racing in Denmark saw massive crowds return to the roads and fans around the team buses in the Tour’s biggest crowds since before the coronavirus pandemic.

“No one wears a mask anymore. And people just don’t understand how important it is to keep the distance,” Plugge said. BikeNews. “It’s mainly the biggest problem compared to a year ago.”

Tour officials require riders, staff members, journalists and other Tour workers to wear face masks at the start and finish.

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But in what is now the third Tour since the start of the global pandemic, the public are no longer required to wear face masks.

Social distancing measures have also been removed, meaning fans crowd around buses, signal areas, finish lines and everywhere along the route with the same fervor as in pre-COVID years.

“We are doing the same thing we have done to protect our riders and our staff. The only problem is you see here nobody has any protocols or measurements,” Plugge said Sunday as fans crowded around the team bus.

“The rest of the world thinks it’s over, but it’s not over,” he said. “It’s skyrocketing right now in Europe, and it’s maybe even worse than last year during the Tour. That’s the big problem.”

Jumbo-Visma has already lost the services of its top sporting director Merijn Zeeman after testing positive for COVID before heading to the Tour.

A few other teams have been hit by COVID infections across the peloton, with roster changes at the end of the hour and staff already sent home in the early days in Denmark.

Jumbo-Visma drew particularly large crowds in the early days with the presence of GC favorite Jonas Vingaard, but Plugge was trying to keep his star driver away from adoring fans.

“I don’t make a lot of friends because I take a lot of Danes away from Jonas and the rest of the riders,” he said. “You want to maintain the distance. We also ask fans to please keep their distance. »

Race on two fronts: “Everything is on the right track”

The Belgian rider of the Jumbo-Visma team, Wout Van Aert, wears the yellow jersey as expected. (Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images)

Plugge said the team’s ambitious dual strategy of competing for the yellow jersey and the green jersey is going according to plan.

Wout van Aert ended up with the yellow jersey as the team had hoped and expected, but not quite as they expected.

The team had hoped that Van Aert would win the time trial on Friday, but he was beaten by Yves Lampaert. Van Aert snatched the yellow on Saturday and finished second for the third day in a row to wear the yellow jersey return to France.

“It’s a good start indeed, because the yellow jersey is a big prize,” Plugge said. BikeNews. “Having the yellow jersey is what we wanted, but rather by Friday by winning the stage. Due to the weather and a very strong Lampaert, he finished second. That he could take it on Saturday was really cool.

Plugge said the team had a built-in strategy of using Van Aert’s yellow jersey to race aggressively for the rest of week one to accompany Primoz Roglic and Jonas Vingaard in the Alps.

“We knew that from the start, so we strategized for that, and we have our tactics ready to keep the guys at the top of the leaderboard,” he said. “We knew Wout would have a great chance to get yellow, and we have a plan for that. Things are on track.

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