The countdown is accelerating for the Tour de France, whose chances of being held on the scheduled dates, from June 27 to July 19, are reduced over the days, in the dramatic health context in the country.
Last week, Tour Director Christian Prudhomme recalled the order of priorities – “The health situation in the country”, “Saving lives” – by announcing the postponement of the Dauphiné, the preparatory race which was due to start on May 31. “To date, the dates of the Tour de France have been maintained. But it would be a lie to say that we are not studying other hypotheses, ”said the person in charge of the event, who does not intend to communicate on the subject and to engage in all kinds of hypotheses.
The only indication provided by Christian Prudhomme is the need to “leave two months of visibility for the runners”, ie a period corresponding to road trips, training courses and first competitions.
In other words, for a race the size of the Tour to take place at the end of June, the riders, currently confined, would have to be allowed to ride outside from the end of April. And, above all, that the green light be given by the authorities for a large deconfinement, given the population movements caused by the Tour which drains 10 to 12 million spectators on the roads. Which, as it stands, can only arouse skepticism.
From there to conclude that the balance, between the different scenarios, today leans towards a postponement to the heart of the summer, the shortcut is quickly made.
The progress on the scheduled dates
The program is still theoretically maintained. Of the major events of the summer, the Tour is the only one to appear on the calendar after the postponement to 2021 of Euro football and the Tokyo Olympics.
The hypothesis had been reinforced for a time by the Minister of Sports Roxana Maracineanu, who spoke of a hypothetical closed session. But the subject is not topical, as the Tour feeds on the enthusiasm of its spectators. “Without the public, it would not be the Tour de France,” summed up Welshman Geraint Thomas, the 2018 winner, on the same line as the elected officials of the cities concerned. “By its nature, the Tour is a popular and festive event, eminently symbolic.”
The choice is directly linked to the way out of the crisis decided by the public authority, the decision maker for the green light given to the organizers. However, visibility on the subject is currently very limited.
How to organize the cycling year in case of postponement? The only certainty lies in the position of the Tour, the cornerstone of the calendar. The teams, stakeholders in the meetings that took place under the aegis of the International Cycling Union (UCI), know the weight of the event in the spin-offs hoped for by their various sponsors. For all those involved in cycling, the Tour has priority.
Mid July, early August, mid August? The first date seems unlikely, given the multiple unknowns that must be resolved. On both sides, we learned that the organizers had polled their interlocutors, elected officials, a television broadcaster, on a Tour postponed to August. But without revealing more.
The worst case scenario. He was even mentioned by Bernard Hinault, five-time winner of the event, at the microphone of France Bleu: “250 races around the world have been canceled. So why not the Tour de France? ”
The earthquake for cycling would be international. “Without the Tour de France, cycling would be a very big problem”, recently insisted in the daily “Die Welt” the boss of the German team Bora, Ralph Denk.
In Belgium, the boss of the Deceuninck team, Patrick Lefevere, faced with the reduction in investment that his main partner intends to make, says nothing else. “If the Tour were not to be contested, it would be a big blow that ASO could probably take, but not the teams. This could collapse the whole model on which our sport is built, “said Lefevere in the newspaper” Het Nieuwsblad “.
Riders fear this possibility, such as the Belgian Thomas De Gendt, who won the Saint-Etienne stage last summer: “If the Tour de France is canceled, I see many teams stopping at the end of the season because their sponsors will drop them. Canceling the Great Loop would be a disaster for cycling. ”
Created: 09.04.2020, 11h52