Symptomatic Chris Froome signed on for Tour de France stage start while awaiting PCR test result

The four-time winner was encouraged to sign on by the race organiser and withdrew from the race minutes after

Chris Froome
Chris Froome at the start of stage 18, minutes before he had a second Covid test returned as positive
(Image credit: Getty)

Chris Froome signed on before the start of stage 18 of the Tour de France, despite showing symptoms of Covid-19 and while waiting for the results of a second test to confirm that he had the virus.

A spokesperson for ASO, the organiser of the race, said race management recommended that the four-time winner sign on before the results of the PCR test were confirmed.

The Israel-Premier Tech rider developed symptoms on the morning of the final Pyrenean stage on Thursday, and took a test before the stage’s start. He took a second test before the team presentation.

While the results of the PCR test were being processed, rather than isolate, Froome rode to the sign-on at 12.30pm. Wearing a mask, the four-time winner filmed the crowd at the start in Lourdes as he made his way past media personnel in the mixed zone.

He took his mask off as he waved to the crowd at the team presentation, before then declining media interviews and returning to his team’s bus where he was told of his positive PCR test for Covid soon after.

The timeline of events was confirmed to Cycling Weekly by an Israel-Premier Tech spokesperson, with ASO also confirming to this publication that they directed Froome to sign on.

An ASO spokesperson said: "Israel-Premier Tech were waiting for a second Covid-19 test for Chris Froome before the start. It was the moment to go for the signature.

"The race direction said to the team that it was better to go with Chris Froome to the signature because if they went without him everyone will ask questions.

"And if the test was negative, then it was more complicated to manage without him on the podium, so they preferred to send Chris Froome to the podium waiting for the confirmation of the test."

Israel-Premier Tech announced that Froome had tested positive at 1.25pm, with a video from Froome following soon after. He was 26th on GC before having to leave the race.

Standard practice at the Tour has been for those who develop symptoms to take an antigenic test, and then a PCR test if a rapid test shows as positive. After 19 stages, 16 riders have left the race due to Covid-19, with positives announced via each team’s media channels before the team signed on for the day.

Riders are required to sign on each day with non-attendance punishable by a fine. Ahead of stage 12, each rider from the Jumbo-Visma and UAE Team-Emirates teams were handed a fine of 500 CHF and docked 15 UCI points for failing to sign on.

Froome was the second rider from his team to catch Covid during the race, with stage five victor Simon Clarke departing before the beginning of stage 15.

Only Bob Jungels (AG2R Citröen) and Rafał Majka (UAE-Team Emirates) have been allowed to continue in the race after a positive test, due to the pair having a high enough cycle threshold (CT) score, effectively meaning that they were not contagious. 

UCI rules state that for the management of a suspected Covid case, “all persons involved in the event are requested to signal any suspicion of Covid-19 immediately to the event medical services [… who] will contact the Covid doctor to manage the follow-up with the suspect patient.”

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Chris Marshall-Bell

Chris first started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2013 on work experience and has since become a regular name in the magazine and on the website. Reporting from races, long interviews with riders from the peloton and riding features drive his love of writing about all things two wheels.

Probably a bit too obsessed with mountains, he was previously found playing and guiding in the Canadian Rockies, and now mostly lives in the Val d’Aran in the Spanish Pyrenees where he’s a ski instructor in the winter and cycling guide in the summer. He almost certainly holds the record for the most number of interviews conducted from snowy mountains.