The start of the Tour de France will not take place on June 27th in Nice. The postponement of the 107th edition has been made inevitable by presidential announcements linked to the coronavirus pandemic. A new niche has yet to be found, with certain imperatives to be taken into account.
The Tour de France will not take place on the scheduled dates. President Emmanuel Macron’s announcements, including the extension of the confinement to 11 May and the ban on “any event with a large public until mid-July”, have officially confirmed the postponement of the Grande Boucle. The hypothesis of an outright cancellation having been ruled out by the organiser Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), the world’s most famous cycling race, which was due to start on 27 June in Nice for an arrival on the Champs-Élysées on 19 July, must therefore find a new niche during the summer.
At the end of March, Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu deemed “imaginable” on France Bleu the option of a Tour behind closed doors, without spectators. This “idea” was rejected by Christian Prudhomme at the beginning of April in the daily La Montagne. “The Tour de France will not take place behind closed doors”, had evacuated the boss of the Grande Boucle. Apart from the difficulty of making sure that there would be no public at all, Christian Prudhomme had argued that “the Tour de France is fervour, enthusiasm and above all smiles. We’ve got to get those smiles back.” Popular, festive and unifying, the summer high mass lost its soul and its magic without its hundreds of thousands of fans lining the roads.
A postponement in August or even September
As the closed session has also been set aside, the only remaining solution, apart from an annulment which has not yet been mentioned, is therefore to postpone it until later in the summer. On France Inter on Tuesday 14 April, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner passed the ball back to the organisers. “It (their) task is to analyse their ability to organise this, to postpone it. The organisers will contact the Ministry of Health and make the right decision.” Internally, ASO did not wait to work on new dates, which would satisfy both the broadcasters, France Television in the lead, the cities hosting the event and, of course, the runners. “It would be a lie to say that we are not studying other hypotheses concerning the dates,” Christian Prudhomme admitted.
Thus, several options would be on the table. The Parisian advances the date of July 25, allowing, in theory, the Grande Boucle to welcome the public. At the same time, L’Équipe, a subsidiary of the Amaury Group, owner of ASO, is talking about a departure in August or even September. Abroad, the Spanish newspaper Marca believes that the Tour will take place from 2 to 25 August. Also owner of the Tour of Spain, scheduled from August 14 to September 6, ASO would then postpone the start of the Vuelta to September. The Tour of Italy, which was scheduled to start from Budapest, Hungary on May 9 and later postponed, would be held in October.
The shape of the riders, the question mark
The new dates of the Tour are therefore very vague. Organising it at the end of July or the beginning of August raises questions about the possible participation of non-European nationals. In his televised address, the President of the Republic announced that “until further notice, (the) borders with non-European countries will remain closed. However, the peloton of the Grande Boucle has a very large number of foreign riders, including the outgoing winner, Colombian Egan Bernal. Will they benefit from an exceptional dispensation to take part in the event? Or will they have to wait until the borders reopen?
A hasty postponement also and above all raises the fundamental question of the runners’ form. The cycling world has been at a standstill since mid-March and the shortened end of Paris-Nice. Cyclists must have time to get their legs back. Christian Prudhomme has also committed to giving “two months visibility to the riders, which corresponds to one month for road training and one month open to competition”. For, if the general idea is to maintain the most famous cycling race in the world, this must not be done to the detriment of sportsmen and women. Nobody wants a Tour at a discount.
However, as things stand at present, not all the conditions are in place. Many athletes are still not able to train normally. In the context of confinement, French cycling officials have asked the Ministry of Sport to allow cycling professionals to resume outdoor training, as is the case in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, which are also affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Once this problem has been resolved, all riders will need to u