Sport No guarantees for Tour de France as UCI confirms cycling’s Grand Tour dates

No guarantees for Tour de France as UCI confirms cycling’s Grand Tour dates

Great Britain's Geraint Thomas passes the Arc de Triomphe monument in Paris on the final stage of the 2018 Tour de France. Photo: AFP/Getty
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There is no guarantee that the Tour de France will go ahead in 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis, French sports minister Roxana Maracineanu said on Tuesday.

As part of the men’s and womens’s professional cycling calendar being revised due to the coronavirus pandemic, cycling’s biggest event of the year has been rescheduled to run from August 29 to September 20.

It was originally scheduled to be raced from June 27.

The Giro d’Italia is pencilled in for October 3 to 25, and the shortened Vuelta Ciclista a España is scheduled to run concurrently from October 20 to November 8.

With crowd-drawing events being banned in France until the end of August, special arrangements might have to be made for the start of the three-week Tour in Nice, the sports ministry said last month.

“Many people are begging me to keep the Tour even behind closed doors,” Ms Maracineanu told France Television.

“I hope it will take place but I am not sure. We do not know what the epidemic will be like after lockdown.”

France’s lockdown, which has been in place since March 17, will be partially lifted on Monday, although the seasons of several sports championships, including soccer’s Ligue 1 and rugby’s Top 14, have already been abandoned.

Ms Maracineanu added that the Tour and tennis’s rescheduled French Open, which is expected to start on September 20, could be held behind closed doors should the ban on popular events be extended.

“Just like the Tour de France, the French Open is the quintessence of professional sports with fans,” Ms Maracineanu said.

“The Roland Garros stadiums have many seats to fill. Having it be played behind closed doors would be the worst solution, but we would do it if the survival of those sports was at stake,” she said.

Cycling’s WorldTour has been on hiatus since Paris-Nice finished a day early on March 14, with all subsequent races either postponed or cancelled.

Team Ineos’ Egan Bernal won last year’s Tour and the British team, winners of seven of the past eight editions, were expected to take a squad including three former winners to the start line in Nice.

Geraint Thomas, winner in 2018, was targeting the race, while four-time winner Chris Froome was making it the focal point of his comeback from career-threatening injuries suffered in last year’s Criterium du Dauphine.

But the world governing body UCI announced on Tuesday that the 25-event 2020 UCI WorldTour will start with the Strade Bianche on August 1 and finish with the Vuelta Ciclista a España on November 8.

The UCI Women’s WorldTour calendar will share the start date and also finish on November 8 with the Ceratizit Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta (Spain).

The women’s series will include 18 events: 13 one-day races and five stage races.

UCI president David Lappartient said: “We have drawn up a solid, attractive and varied new calendar that is as realistic and coherent as possible.

” … The recommencement of our activities will remain dependent on the evolution of the world health situation.”

A steering group, under the authority of the UCI medical director Professor Xavier Bigard, will define conduct to be adopted, such as social distancing, blocking gestures and other measures for the resumption of the season.