The deeper you dive into the bubble of the Tour de France, the more normal not only this artificial world appears to you. You also discover more and more things and habits that have been saved from the times before the pandemic into the current situation. One of these things is the Start Village, the small village with food stalls and PR booths for the sponsors. It was always popular with professional cyclists because they were able to have a crispy coffee here shortly before the start and chat with each other before they started the race. This year, the drivers’ hygiene bubble does not reach this starting village. They have to stick with their buses.
At least the village itself still exists. People with accreditation cards around their necks, mostly organizers, a few journalists and a few VIPs, are let through the gate. You have to disinfect your hands there – that’s new. Inside, the number of stands has decreased. But coffee and madeleines, water and cola, and even wine, are still available. It is poured out behind the well-known Plexiglass panes.
There are also some entertainment options to discover, even a few new ones such as the synthetic petanque field. “Here, touch it! These are plastic balls. But you can play petanque with them, ”calls out Alexis Tanguy. He is a petanque player himself, according to his own statements, French runner-up and a World Cup participant this year. In the start village of the Tour de France, which, like the riders, travels on every day, he sets up his artificial petanque area every time: an approximately two-meter-wide and ten-meter-long carpet on which you can then place the balls with swing. “The weight and diameter of the balls correspond to the competition standards,” explains Tanguy. Around 50 people have already accepted his offer that morning. “It makes people happy. It’s a nice game too, ”he says. Petanque with borrowed balls in pandemic times – is that even possible? “Of course you can. We disinfect the balls after every game. Everything is correct. And nobody is afraid, ”says Tanguy soothingly.
He is on the road all year round for the society of petanque players, promoting the original French sport on unusual synthetic surfaces on the fringes of city festivals, trade fairs and company events. And now on the tour. At the start in Nice, Monaco’s Prince Albert even got involved in a round. In the past, its ball would have come to the museum or been auctioned after the royal touch. Now it was just dusted with disinfectant – this is what animation looks like in Corona times at the Tour de France.