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Coronavirus casts huge shadow over Tour de France – our take; Two Lotto-Soudal staff members test positive for COVID-19; Southampton bike lane to be removed due to “steady increase in traffic"; Ineos looking to sign more Brits; Thibaut Pinot's goats +more

Today's live blog with Alex Bowden (daytime) and Simon MacMichael (evening)...
27 August 2020, 21:19
Where next for the Tour de France as COVID-19 casts huge shadow over the race?

Where next for the Tour de France? What was planned to be an emphatic – emblematic, even – edition of the race to show that life could return to some semblance of normality despite the COVID-19 crisis is now in jeopardy as the country faces the dreaded second wave of the coronavirus.

The world’s biggest annual sporting event, due to start in Nice on Saturday after its postponement from the original date of late June, has been seen as a totem of how large-scale events can be staged in this post-pandemic world and developments are being keenly watched from well beyond the sport itself.

But, with 21 of France’s departments now designated “Red Zones” due to a spike in cases – this morning, just two had that unwelcome appellation – and the main clusters being on the Côte d’Azur, where the Tour is due to start, and Ile de France, where it is supposed to finish in three weeks’ time, it is very difficult to see it going the distance.

Yes, protocols have been tightened, with rider safety the overarching concern. At this weekend’s Grand Depart, access to cols for spectators will be strictly controlled, with only people who arrive on foot or by bike allowed to go up and watch the race.

However long it lasts, it will be a Tour de France like no other – including the ones that helped edge a nation back into normality after the two world wars.

In most of our lifetimes, the only precedent for such an unusual edition is perhaps the “Tour of Redemption” in 1999, the year after the Festina scandal – and we all know who won that race, and the six subsequent editions.

Earlier this week, I posted my preview of this year’s race, the eleventh year I have done that here on and I really did thing I have never seen a more exciting and open first week to the Tour de France.

Let’s enjoy it. I suspect it is all we will get.

27 August 2020, 19:06
Lotto-Soudal Tour de France staff sent home after testing positive for coronavirus

And so it begins ... on the same evening the teams have been presented to the public - well, a tightly restricted crowd of just 1,000 people in Nice's Place Massena - two members of Lotto-Soudal's staff have been sent hom after testing positive for coronavirus.

The news follows the French government's announcement earlier today that the Alpes-Maritimes department, which hosts the opening days of the race, is now a "Red Zone" due to the recent increase in cases of coronavirus there, with the local prefecture and Tour de France organisers ASO immediately announcing new restrictions to enable the Grand Depart to go ahead, as we discuss here.

27 August 2020, 15:50
Ned Boulting's done all his preparation
27 August 2020, 15:49
Rubber technology testing laboratory, Vahrenwald plant (Continental archives)
Continental was “an important part of Hitler’s war machine” according to study

An independent academic study released today reviews the involvement with the German National Socialist regime of five companies that are now jointly part of Continental.

The study was commissioned by… Continental.

CEO, Dr Elmar Degenhart, commented: “We commissioned the study in order to gain more clarity about the darkest chapter in our company’s history. That’s why we specifically included those companies that were not part of Continental at the time.

“The study is a consciously chosen opportunity and a renewed motive for us to face up to our responsibility and, on the basis of past experiences, to understand our identity more clearly and to create a better future.

“This is the duty of each new generation. So today we are by no means drawing a line under this responsibility.”

Among his findings, corporate historian Professor Paul Erker discovered that the firm used around 10,000 forced labourers during the Second World War.

In the final years of the war, concentration camp prisoners were used in the production of gas masks and in the relocation of production underground.

“This shows how corporate cultures can quickly topple under pressure from political regimes and opposing social influences,” said Dr Ariane Reinhart, Continental Executive Board member for Human Relations.

“For this reason, corporate cultures must be constantly re-examined, strengthened and continuously developed. This includes a healthy culture of remembrance in order to draw from the past the certainty for our identity today and the lessons for the present and future.”

Degenhart added: “Without understanding the past and without fully coming to terms with the Nazi era, a conscious and unbiased embarkment into a successful future and the next 150 years of Continental is not possible.”

27 August 2020, 14:58
The World Champion is the European Champion

Makes sense, dunnit.

27 August 2020, 14:29
Southampton bike lane to be removed in response to “a steady increase in traffic”

The Daily Echo reports that a pop-up cycle lane on Bassett Avenue in Southampton is to be removed following “a steady increase in traffic”.

With public transport capacity severely limited due to the coronavirus crisis, the Government fears that without large numbers switching to active travel, towns and cities’ roads will grind to a halt.

This resulted in guidance for local authorities which demanded more space be provided for walking and cycling.

Despite this, we’re now seeing more and more pop-up lanes shelved in response to rising levels of motor traffic.

27 August 2020, 14:00
Sir Dave Brailsford (BBC via iPlayer).jpg
Ineos on the lookout for more Brits?

We don’t know about you, but we’re very much enjoying Dave Brailsford repackaging Geraint Thomas’s non-selection for the Tour de France as a fantastic opportunity.

You can see where he’s coming from – Thomas still gets to go for the Giro d’Italia – but at the same time everyone knows this wasn’t the plan, so presenting it as such seems like… well, a load of cobblers really.

Speaking to the BBC today, Brailsford said: "Geraint has already won the Tour de France but we want to get the Tour of Italy under his belt to join up with his yellow jersey, so we have reallocated our resources and we feel like we have all of the big races covered this year."

Nothing in that is strictly speaking untrue. It’s just the way it’s worded. Maybe it’s just us.

Brailsford also spoke about Froome’s recovery from his injuries and how his relationship with the four-time Tour winner was “as good as ever” despite Froome leaving Ineos at the end of the season.

"We have given Chris a bit longer to continue his recovery," said Brailsford.

"We looked at everything we can do to support his training programme and our relationship is as good as ever.

"We have a professional relationship and a personal relationship, and on both fronts, we are absolutely fine.

"Chris had a horrific accident last year and he has done amazingly well to come back and be able to compete at the highest end of professional cycling."

Brailsford also seemed to suggest the team was on the lookout for more British riders, following the signing of Adam Yates this week.

"We have had a cohort of British riders that we have worked with for 10 years and they have developed at the highest level and given us great success," he said.

"It is time to turn back into British cycling and to identify some of the great young talent dotted around in various teams and academy programmes."

27 August 2020, 13:17
Chris Boardman and Andy Burnham.jpg
Andy Burnham calls on people to cycle or walk if possible when schools reopen next week

With schools due to reopen next week, Greater Manchester’s Mayor, Andy Burnham, has asked people to cycle or walk if they can to reduce pressure and congestion on public transport.

“Since March our roads have been noticeably quieter, the air is cleaner and more people are choosing to walk and cycle,” he said.

“I believe these are things we want to maintain as we return to education and work so let’s do our bit.

“Cycle or walk to school, college or work if you can, switch to public transport from your car if at all possible and, however you travel, try to avoid peak hours at the start and end of each day to keep the load on roads and public transport down.” 

27 August 2020, 11:30
Magpie attack
Australia’s magpie swooping season could be more severe than usual this year

The Mail has posted footage of a Perth cyclist being not merely dive bombed by a magpie, but actually knocked off.

We’ve regularly reported on Australia’s magpie swooping season, when male magpies become violent defenders of their young, attacking any intruders who they perceive to be encroaching on the nests.

It generally runs from August to November and appears to be on the early side this year thanks to warmer weather.

It could also be more severe because of face masks.

Birdlife Australia's national public affairs manager, Sean Dooley, explained: “A magpie may know you and know that you're okay, but when you're wearing a mask they may not be able to recognise you.”

He says magpies can recognise and remember up to 100 people, but probably won’t be able to tell people wearing masks apart.

Australians are advised to avoid eye contact and to steer clear of known magpie territories whenever possible.

“If you're riding a bike have a flag on top,” advises Dr Deborah Kelly, Manager of Animal Welfare and Wildlife at the South Australia Department of Environment. “They'll usually go for the tallest point.”

27 August 2020, 10:55
Pierre Rolland needs to up his game
27 August 2020, 10:51
Coronavirus infection rate soars in France ahead of the Tour de France

French Prime Minister Jean Castex says the coronavirus is four times more prevalent there than a month ago, reports the BBC.

France suffered 5,429 new cases in the last 24 hours – the highest number recorded since April – and there are now 21 départements classed as red zones (which means more than 50 new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last seven days).

Most red zones are around Paris or in holiday regions on the Cote d’Azur – where the Tour de France is due to begin on Saturday.

27 August 2020, 10:30
'Sleep high, train low' with FDJ's Ramon Sinkeldam
27 August 2020, 09:55
Video: People cycling in the Netherlands

That's it. Nothing more remarkable or newsworthy than that.

A video of people riding their bikes in the Netherlands.

27 August 2020, 09:30
La Course - Day 3  (17)
Women’s “Tour de France” stage race to be held in 2022

UCI president David Lappartient says Tour de France organiser ASO will hold a stage race for women in 2022, reports Wielerflits.

“Whether this race will also be called Tour de France, I don't know yet,” he said.

The plan is for an eight-day stage race that would start in Paris on the day the men finish the Tour de France.

27 August 2020, 09:04
Great Britain's European Championships Road Race team for today

Elizabeths - 2

Barneses - 2

Elizabeth Barneses - 0

For what it's worth, Elizabeth Barnes represented Great Britain in the women's 800 metres at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. She finished 15th.

27 August 2020, 08:54
Caption competition anyone?

First prize is a smug sense of self satisfaction.

27 August 2020, 08:45
Thibaut Pinot treats his goats very well indeed

Or possibly very badly, depending on how you look on this kind of thing.

Unless there's something we don't know about goat rearing - and honestly, we'd be very surprised if there was - we're thinking that bottle's probably got something different in it.

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

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