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One of the Tour de France's most famous customs will end this year when the post-race podium ritual of the winner being flanked by two young, attractive women comes to an end.
Instead, organisers said Wednesday that there will be just one hostess on one side of the celebrating cyclist with a male host on the other when the 2020 Tour starts in Nice on August 29.
"You used to see the champion surrounded by two hostesses, with five elected officials on one side and five representatives of the sponsors on the other," said race director Christian Prudhomme.
"Now, it will be different with only one elected official and one representative of the sponsors of the yellow jersey, as well as a hostess and a host for the first time."
"Yes, it's new but we have already been doing it in other races for 20 years like in Liege-Bastogne-Liege."
The presence of attractive young women on sports podiums has been a bone of contention in recent years with many condemning it as sexist.
In 2018, Formula One put an end to 'grid girls' who had been ever-present at the start of Grands Prix in the world championship.
Last year, a petition containing nearly 38,000 signatures objected to the use of podium girls on the Tour de France with activists protesting that "women are not objects nor rewards".
Despite the change at the Tour, Prudhomme did not say whether or not the tradition of hostesses giving the cyclists a kiss would continue.
However, the current health protocols required during the coronavirus pandemic will likely spell the end of such familiarity.
The Tour de France was pushed back to take place in August and September from its traditional July slot due to the pandemic.
Health concerns remain paramount ahead of the Tour which ends in Paris on September 20.
Thousands of fans routinely line the route of the three-week showpiece.
On Wednesday, Prudhomme appealed to spectators to wear protective masks when they congregate at roadside or high up in the mountain stages.
Masks 'common sense'
"For the spectators, on the road, there is no question. Common sense indicates that you have to wear a mask, even if the formal obligation to do so depends on the prefects of the 32 departments crossed," said Prudhomme.
Wearing a mask in public is not compulsory throughout all areas of the country.
The problem is compounded out on the road and in the countryside.
During this summer's various cycling events, many riders regularly expressed their concerns on the subject.
"People do not realise that when they come to shout at 40 centimetres to encourage us, there is a risk," said rider Julien Bernard of the Trek team.
The worst scenario for the organisers would be that a case of Covid-19 spreads in the peloton.
On Wednesday, a battery of health measures were announced.
The August 27 presentation of the teams in Nice will be in the presence of a maximum of 1,750 seated people, a figure that may be revised downwards depending on the evolution of the health crisis.
A Covid-19 'cell' of 15 people will be on duty throughout the competition, in conjunction with regional health agencies.
A mobile screening laboratory will be present throughout the Tour, "with results known within two hours maximum".
The cyclists will in particular be subjected to two tests before the start of the race as well as on each rest day.
'Bubbles', bio-secure units, will be put in place for teams and management to avoid contact with outsiders as much as possible. Access to team bus parking lots is limited to members of the 'bubble' only and prohibited to the media, and TV commentators will remain in Paris.
There will also be a reduction in the numbers associated with the Tour – cyclists, teams, sponsors and organisers. Usually there are around 5,000 people; this year, the number will be in the region of 3,000.
For the public, there is likely to be a stop to selfies.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
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