Luxembourg FM begins annual ‘Tour de France’ ride despite virus
Luxembourg’s foreign minister, 71-year-old cycling enthusiast Jean Asselborn, has pedalled off on his annual tribute to the Tour de France, despite the epidemic that forced the postponement of the professional race.
It is Asselborn’s sixth summer ride through the back lanes and country roads of the Grand Duchy’s larger neighbour and comes despite a worrying acceleration in coronavirus cases in northwest Europe.
“I accept responsibility for my decision to go. Firstly, to thank France for letting us cross its borders, and secondly to show a certain determination not to let ourselves be ‘trapped’ in a permanent fear of COVID-19,” Asselborn said on his Facebook page.
The real Tour de France, the world’s most renowned bike race, was postponed from its usual June start date this year because of the coronavirus epidemic, and is now scheduled to begin from Nice on August 29 and to arrive in Paris 21 stages later on September 20.
Asselborn has chosen a less gruelling route, but still an impressive one for an elderly diplomat who spent time in intensive care last year after a fall.
Starting from Neufchateau in eastern France, just south of his homeland, Asselborn will head due south to Dijon, then on to Aix-les-Bains in the French Alps before swinging south past Ventoux in Provence and on to Beziers on the Languedoc coastline.
More than 800 kilometres (500 miles) in all.
Asselborn has been Luxembourg’s foreign minister since 2004 and says he will not shirk his duties in the saddle — he says he’ll have his cellphone with him and be “contactable at all times”.