Coronavirus Outbreak: Tour de France rescheduled for late-August, race to be held from 29 August to 20 September

The sport’s governing body International Cycling Union (UCI) said the Tour, initially due to be held from 27 June - 19 July, would be staged from 29 August - 20 September amid measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak

Reuters April 15, 2020 17:22:30 IST
Coronavirus Outbreak: Tour de France rescheduled for late-August, race to be held from 29 August to 20 September

Paris: Staging the Tour de France this year despite the novel coronavirus pandemic was vital for road cycling, the race’s director Christian Prudhomme said on Wednesday.

 <span class=Coronavirus Outbreak Tour de France rescheduled for lateAugust race to be held from 29 August to 20 September" width="380" height="285" />

Representational image. Reuters

The sport’s governing body International Cycling Union (UCI) said the Tour, initially due to be held from 27 June - 19 July, would be staged from 29 August - 20 September amid measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

“We started to talk about a postponement to the local politicians as soon as 18 March — a day after France was put in lockdown — and all of them were on board,” Prudhomme told Reuters in an interview.

“Everyone in the world of cycling supported the idea, even those who usually don’t like us. Some teams said they would have to close down without the Tour in 2020."

“The Tour is the base of the revised calendar.”

Sponsors usually invest in cycling teams for the broad TV exposure and the Tour de France is one of the world’s most-watched events, after the Summer Olympics and the football World Cup.

With no racing before July, cycling teams and sponsors have been dramatically hit financially by the coronavirus , which has infected over two million people worldwide and brought the world of sport to a standstill.

The Tour route will remain 99% unchanged with a Grand Depart from Nice and the traditional final parade on Paris’s Champs-Elysees.

“The only thing we might have to change sometimes is when we go through bigger cities,” said Prudhomme, who on Tuesday called 49 local politicians to inform them that the Tour dates had been changed.

The 2020 summer holidays are due to end on 1 September in France, where public events have been banned until mid-July although French President Emmanuel Macron said the confinement would be progressively lifted from 11 May.

Asked about potential safety measures due to the coronavirus outbreak, Prudhomme said the Tour organisers would adapt.

“We will follow recommendations, just like we did for Paris-Nice in March. At the start, gatherings of more than 5,000 were banned and after a couple of days we had to adapt because the maximum was 1,000,” he said.

Prudhomme added that earlier dates for the Tour in August had been considered before being ruled out.

“Riders need a couple of months to get ready for an event like the Tour. Four, five or six weeks to train on roads and then we should have a few stage races before the Tour,” he said.

It means the Criterium du Dauphine, a traditional warm-up race for the Tour, is expected to be held sometime in August, Prudhomme said, even if it could be shorter, “maybe five or six days instead of eight”.

“Having the Tour in September is also a better month for the hotel industry,” he added.

Hotels are traditionally packed in August and at least 4,500 people are usually working on the Tour de France.

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