Coronavirus Outbreak: French cycling teams hopeful of Tour de France getting delayed to August than cancelled

Cycling teams are gearing up for the Tour de France to be held in August rather than the usual July, after French President Emmanuel Macron said big public events would be halted until mid-July as the country fights the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reuters April 14, 2020 23:09:53 IST
Coronavirus Outbreak: French cycling teams hopeful of Tour de France getting delayed to August than cancelled

Paris: Cycling teams are gearing up for the Tour de France to be held in August rather than the usual July, after French President Emmanuel Macron said big public events would be halted until mid-July as the country fights the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marc Madiot, president of the French cycling league and director of the Groupama–FDJ cycling team, said Macron’s comments, which included extending measures to slow the coronavirus outbreak, paved the way for the Tour to be held in August.

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Riders in action during the 19th stage of the Tour de France. Reuters

“Based on what he told us, it seems conceivable to hold the Tour de France in the course of August,” he told Reuters.

Thousands of fans gather along the roadside every day to watch and urge on the riders during the three-week race, posing a risk of spreading the virus further among the public and the cycling teams alike.

An email seen by Reuters on Saturday and sent to the publishers of the official Tour programme showed the organisers were focusing on postponing rather than cancelling the race.

The organisers, who had no immediate comment on Tuesday, told German news agency DPA that the dates initially announced would not be possible and that they were working on postponing the event.

Following the postponement of the Euro 2020 Championship and the Tokyo Olympic Games, the Tour de France — which usually takes place in June and July — is one of the last major sporting events not to have been officially moved this year.

Since the Tour’s inception in 1903, only the two world wars of 1914-1918 and 1939-1945 have forced organisers to cancel the race.

The head of the French cycling league said cycling teams would need to be allowed to train outdoors before the end of the lockdown period, however. Cycling outdoors has been restricted in France to crack down on the virus.

“Our boys need to be able to train. The longer we’re under lockdown, the longer they will need to get back in shape,” Madiot said. “People think cycling outdoors is just to go for a ride, but we have to be on the road for work.”

Participants said holding the Tour and avoiding a cancellation was crucial for the teams’ financial survival.

“It’s not too late today,” Vincent Lavenu, AG2R-La Mondiale team manager, said. He added that he also believed the Tour was likely to be pushed back into August, even to the end of the month. “What’s essential is that the Tour is held.”

He said sponsorship income from road racing’s biggest event amounted to 60 percent or even 70 percent of teams’ worldwide revenue.

“That’s huge and essential to the survival of teams,” Lavenu said.

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