Amid COVID-19 safety measures Tour De France will be raced from August 29 to September 20, organizers announced on Wednesday, postponing cycling’s flagship event originally slated to start on June 27 due to the coronavirus lockdown. The new dates follow French President Emmanuel Macron’s extension of a ban on large public gatherings until mid-July.
While the news comes as a relief to professional cycling teams and fans, it also moves the three-week race out of its traditional slot in the summer holidays where roadside crowds of around 12 million would be expected to gather in festive spirit.
“Following the president’s address on Monday evening, where large-scale events were banned in France until mid-July as a part of the fight against the spread of COVID-19, the organizers of the Tour de France, in agreement with the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), have decided to postpone the Tour de France to Saturday 29th August to Sunday 20th September 2020,” a statement from the organizers said.
It said the race would follow the same route as the original itinertary, starting in Nice and ending in Paris.
The new date solves a series of problems after organisers faced up to the reality that the race could never take place on the original dates.
Top cycling teams will survive economically, social distancing will be easier without massive crowds, and the 4,500 strong Tour de France rolling caravan can be more easily put up in hotels outside August.
With the Tokyo Games and football’s Euro 2020 both delayed by a year, the Tour is the last major event remaining on the summer sports calendar.
“The Tour represents around 60 percent of earnings in a season,” French team AG2R boss Vincent Lavenu said last week.
The Tour will provide a daily fix for deprived sports addicts the world over, with millions of armchair fans able to tune in daily, including those still working from home.
Organizers Amaury Sports Organization (ASO) had stubbornly refused to cancel the event, and while the new date is later than expected, it now gives them time to stage the warm-up Criterium du Dauphine — held annually ahead of the Tour but postponed this year as the spring cycling season was swept aside by the Coronavirus.
Cycling’s governing body the UCI announced the new dates, saying that May’s postponed Giro d’Italia would be raced after the Tour de France, and the Vuelta a espana after that, with daes to be announced in May.