Mick Bennett, the Tour of Britain director, has admitted he would be “totally staggered” if the Tour de France is able to go ahead this summer amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Tour, originally scheduled to run from 27 June to 19 July, has been pushed back by two months and given a new start date of August 29, but doubts persist over the race after the French government imposed new restrictions on mass gatherings until the beginning of September.
Bennett remains optimistic his own race, scheduled for 6-13 September, can go ahead even if it overlaps with the French event as the logistics of organising a shorter, smaller race are less complicated, but he admitted it was impossible to make any firm predictions.
“I would be totally staggered if the Tour de France goes ahead,” Bennett said. “Staggered, but in a positive way if it happens. It’s three weeks long and a global event, so much more so than the Tour of Britain, in terms of the logistics, number of people on the race and the travel involved with people coming from across the world and areas with different levels of restrictions.”
The UCI is due to publish a revised calendar for the 2020 WorldTour season on Tuesday, with only the Tour de France having been given new dates so far. Priority has been given to the three Grand Tours – the Tour, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España – as well as the one-day monuments.
Non-WorldTour races like the Tour of Britain will not be listed on that calendar but Bennett hopes this year’s race, scheduled to begin in Penzance and travel the entire distance of the nation up to Aberdeen across eight stages, can still happen.
“We have to hope that for us in the UK if conditions allow, perhaps a shorter or smaller race with fewer spectators, less complex logistics, is more possible, but we don’t have a crystal ball, and really to a large extent it is probably in the hands of the French and British governments,” he added.
“The Tour de France, Giro, world championships are all hugely important for cycling as a sport, and if they go ahead then there is hope for all cycling events. But it is so hard to make any predictions right now without looking foolish, especially as things will vary so much from country to country.”
The fate of the Tour of Britain could be known in the next few weeks. Bennett said it was vital for organisers to be able to do site visits soon in order to step up preparations, but that is not possible until the lockdown ends.
“Probably by the middle of June we need to get boots on the ground,” he said. “It would be a massive blow to us as a company but also the country [if it doesn’t go ahead].”
The Women’s Tour, the UK’s first international stage race for women which has been held for the last six years, will be rearranged for June 2021.