There is no guarantee that the Tour de France will go ahead this year because of the Covid-19 crisis, the French sports minister Roxana Mărăcineanu said on Tuesday.
The Tour, cycling’s biggest event of the year, has been rescheduled from 29 August to 20 September. 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 Tour in Nice, the sports ministry said last month.
“Many people are begging me to keep the Tour even behind closed doors,” Mărăcineanu 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, in place since 17 March, will be partially lifted on Monday, although the seasons of several sports championships, including football’s Ligue 1 and rugby’s Top 14, have been abandoned. Mărăcineanu added that the Tour and tennis’s rescheduled French Open, expected to start on 20 September, 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. 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.
The news came on the day cycling’s world governing body confirmed the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España will overlap in October as the UCI unveiled its revised calendar.
The Tour de France remains on its previously announced dates while the Giro is scheduled to take place from 3-25 October, with a shortened 18-stage Vuelta slated for 20 October to 8 November.
The plan will see racing resume with a men’s and women’s edition of the Italian one-day race Strade Bianche on 1 August, with the Vuelta the last race of the season. The accompanying women’s event, the Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta, would take place on 6-8 November. The men’s RideLondon-Surrey Classic retains its previously announced date of 16 August.
The Giro Rosa, among the highlights of the women’s calendar, will clash with the final week of the Tour de France as its scheduled for 11-19 September, the week before the UCI’s Road World Championships in Aigle-Martigny, Switzerland.
The UCI president, David Lappartient, said: “We have drawn up a solid, attractive and varied new calendar that is as realistic and coherent as possible.
“Riders, teams and organisers now have the dates they need to anticipate the resumption of racing on 1 August. This is a very important step that the entire cycling community, financially impacted by the pandemic, has been waiting for to move forward.”