Deceuninck-QuickStep star Julian Alaphilippe has said that he doesn't want to think about a Tour de France without spectators. The option was recently raised as a possibility by France's sports minister, in response to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic sweeping through Europe.
Numerous events around the world have been cancelled or postponed as a result, but July's race is just far enough into the future to be unsure as to what might happen. Roxana Maracineanu, the Minister of Youth and Sports, told l'Equipe on Wednesday that a Tour 'behind closed doors' could be possible.
"During this period of confinement, everyone is being very careful and aware," she said. "Everyone understands that they have to stay at home, therefore watching television rather than attending any live events. As a result, it wouldn't be too difficult to have to have to watch the Tour on television."
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Alaphilippe, speaking to RMC Sport on Saturday, said that, while he would participate in a spectator-less race, it would be with a heavy heart.
The 27-year-old, of course, thrilled the nation last year, winning two stages and holding the yellow jersey for two weeks en route to a surprise fifth-place finish in Paris.
"I think it would be unique," he said. "I'd rather not imagine it. The public are part of the Tour de France. Imagine the World Cup in a stadium without an audience.
"If we have to do it, we'll do it, but I'd rather imagine the virus will go away and we'll do it with the public."
The Tour, like many other major races around Europe, has run uninterrupted since World War Two, though this year there's a distinct possibility that the bulk of the European season might not be raced at all, depending on how the coronavirus develops through the remainder of 2020.
Earlier on Saturday, reports emerged that organisers ASO would make a final decision on what will happen to the race on May 15. Meanwhile, the thought of postponement or cancellation was greeted by dismay from mayors of the race's host towns.
"I am divided," said Alaphilippe. "For me, the Tour is the Tour, and if it takes place – even if it's postponed – it's the best thing. But a Tour without an audience wouldn't be the same."
The Frenchman added that he doesn't know when racing might return, with no firm date given as to when competitions might start up again. Most European countries are currently under some form of lockdown, with sporting and public events halted for the foreseeable future.
"They talk of setting a date, and at that time we can prepare. But we have no idea, so it's difficult to prepare for the Tour de France or the World Championships. But we're all in that situation."