Will the Tour de France continue its journey despite the Covid-19? The Olympic Games and Euro football have been postponed until next year, Roland-Garros should take place at the end of September, but to this day, the big loop is still officially scheduled from June 27, with a departure from Nice , the big French city closest to Italy ravaged by Covid-19. The day after the cancellation, Wednesday March 25 of a new important race, the four days of Dunkirk, all eyes are now on ASO, the organizer and owner of the Tour de France, but also of Paris-Roubaix and the Paris marathon (both postponed).
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Radio silence is essential in the powerful company, a subsidiary of the Amaury group, which publishes the daily The Team, also silent on the subject. ” No comment “, returns without surprise Philippe Sudre, communications director of ASO. No more on the announcement of the date of a decision than on the benefit that the Tour could postpone the postponement of the Olympics, which released other possible dates in the summer. The same silence is observed in Switzerland at the headquarters of the UCI, the international cycling federation, chaired by Frenchman David Lappartient. The body split a press release following the announcement of the postponement of the Olympic Games evoking an ongoing reflection on the upcoming calendar. But nothing special about the Tour de France.
Sports minister calls for closed-door race
Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu has spoken out in favor of a closed Tour de France with no spectators at the side of the roads. “The economic model is not based on ticketing but on TV rights and media broadcasting. In this period of confinement, everyone understood the benefits of staying at home and therefore favoring the television show rather than the live show. Finally, it would not be so penalizing since we could follow him on television “, she said Wednesday March 25 on France Bleu.
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“We have to stick together and there is no question of pulling the blanket, but everyone knows that world cycling revolves around the Tour”, explains Marc Madiot, boss of the Groupama-FDJ team and president of the French Professional Cycling League. “ASO, the organizer of the Tour, can take the blows, but the teams cannot. If there is no Tour de France, the whole cycling model can collapse “, completes Patrick Lefevere, manager of the Deceuninck-Quick team, which employs Julian Alaphilippe.
Better a Truncated Tour than No Tour at All
“We can imagine everything, resumes Marc Madiot, five runners per team instead of eight to allow other races to take place, considerably reduce the caravan, arrange stages, but the Tour must take place. ” When? “Why not in August? “, interrogates Cédric Vasseur, manager of the Cofidis team, who prefers a tour “Truncated with injustices”, in view of the training conditions of each other according to the countries that no Tour at all. An Italian runner, Matteo Trentin, went so far as to offer a sort of tour of Europe including the flagship stages of the Tours of Italy, France and Spain.
ASO and the UCI have the answers to these questions, which also involve the great classics carried over, such as Milan-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders. But also the Tour of Spain, scheduled for mid-August and for which ASO holds the keys as organizer and co-owner. Likewise, the Italian organizer of the Tour of Italy could have a say in the fall calendar. The Giro, whose departure was originally scheduled for May 9, was postponed very early, depriving Romain Bardet of work, one of the best French in recent years who counted on Italy Giro to revive his career.
“The Tour de France is more than sport, it is hope”
Romain Bardet sees few drawbacks in a revised Tour de France. “We have a well-identified (runner) population, there are possibilities not to confine but to reduce certain aspects, taking care not to distort the event. It seems less utopian for the Tour to be organized, if the pandemic is under control on French territory “, the runner, who has been the best Frenchman on the big loop in recent years, told AFP.
Romain Bardet is joined in his analysis by most of the great tri-color runners who have spoken on the subject, Julian Alaphilippe or Thibaut Pinot. The latter wishes to put into perspective the scope of the event vis-à-vis the global health crisis. “The bike at the moment is completely ridiculous”, insists the one who had focused his whole season around the big loop, after his disappointment from last edition. His boss at Groupama-FDJ, Marc Madiot, is not entirely of this opinion. “The Tour is much more than cycling, he says, it’s happiness, nature, economy, culture and also hope. We will need this hope once the virus has passed, so we must do everything to maintain it. “