“I do my best not to sneeze on the buffet,” said Pierre Rolland.
Welcome to the third week of the Tour de France where immune systems are as fragile as the legs are strong. Josh Robinson, writing for the Wall Street Journal, explores the method behind the hand sanitizing, personal washing machine laundering, ginger shot drinking, quarantining madness meant to ward off germs and nurse the sick back to health.
Two weeks into the biggest race on his calendar, pro cyclist Pierre Rolland was spending evenings in what he called Tour de France quarantine. At team hotels, he bunked alone in his single room. At meal time, he ate by himself or at the end of a table. When teammates were around, he was banned from shaking hands.
No one felt good about it, but he knew that cycling’s answer to solitary confinement was the only solution at times like these. Because Mr. Rolland fell prey to one of the sport’s greatest dangers: He got sick at the Tour de France.
At this stage of the grueling three-week race, illness travels through the peloton faster than a juicy rumor. It may be July in blazing-hot France but immune systems are depleted. The riders are underslept. And everyone operates in close quarters all of the time. It all combines to turn the race into a petri dish of skinny, sniffly men trying not to cough on each other.
“I’m sanitizing my hands 15 times a day,” said Mr. Rolland, who rides for the Cannondale-Drapac team and is showing signs of improvement. “And I do my best not to sneeze on the buffet.”