NICE, France (Reuters) - International Cycling Union (UCI) president David Lappartient is confident that the Tour de France can be completed despite concerns over a possible second wave of the coronavirus in the country.
The number of new daily cases has been rising steadily since the beginning of the month, prompting the UCI to enforce strict rules to help protect riders during the three-week race.
Yet there has been a growing concern that the event might not reach its final destination, the Champs Elysees in Paris, on Sept. 20.
Asked whether it would be a miracle if the Tour made it to the French capital, Lappartient replied: "I believe in miracles, so yes we will reach Paris."
One of the new rules imposed by the governing body concerns when teams can be excluded from the race in the event of positive tests for COVID-19.
Should two or more riders from the same team test positive for the coronavirus over a seven-day period, the whole outfit could be excluded, the UCI said on Friday, on the eve of the first stage in Nice. [nL8N2FU3GN]
"I’m quite confident that everybody understands that we have to be strict. Maybe the fact that we're now more in a difficult position in Europe helps everyone understand that we have to be stricter," Lappartient told reporters on Friday.
The new rules as well as the situation in France, however, have cast a shadow over the Tour.
"You can’t say that there is no risk (that the race doesn’t reach Paris). I know everybody is aware that all of us have a responsibility to reach Paris," said Lappartient.
"We cannot compromise with the rules. We have to stick to the plan."
Riders have been tested twice before the start of the race and a mobile laboratory provided by organisers will ensure they can be tested during the event.
The mobile lab is able to deliver a result within a couple of hours, meaning an initial positive test can be confirmed before the start of the following stage in order to avoid riders who receive 'false positives' being sent home.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis)