Tour de France could be postponed to August, say French teams
Cycling's marquee event could be postponed to August
Cycling teams are gearing up for the Tour de France to be held in August, after French president Emmanuel Macron said mass public events will be suspended 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, initially scheduled from June 27 to July 19, to be postponed to August.
"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 e-mail 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 yesterday, told German news agency dpa that the initial dates would not be possible and that they were working on postponing the event.
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," said Vincent Lavenu, team manager of AG2R-La Mondiale.
He also believes the Tour was likely to be pushed back to August, even to the end of the month. "What's essential is that the Tour is held."
Meanwhile, Formula One's French Grand Prix, which was scheduled on June 28, will be the 10th race to be affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
A decision will be made in the coming days, said the organisers yesterday.
A spokesman told AFP that they "have been studying all scenarios", including postponement or staging the race at Circuit Paul Ricard behind closed doors.- AFP, REUTERS