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Brailsford says cycling needs to end reliance on Tour de France

Team Ineos manager Dave Brailsford
Team Ineos manager Dave Brailsford (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Team Ineos manager Dave Brailsford has said professional cycling should modernise and reform to end the sport's reliance on the Tour de France after the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The Tour de France has been postponed two months from early July to early September in the hope the sport's biggest race can be held - to secure television revenue and showcase the many team sponsors, many of whom are in financial difficulty due to the COVID-19 virus. The Tour de France is estimated to provide 70-80 per cent of a brand visibility for team sponsors thanks to its global television coverage.  

Medical experts have questioned plans to hold the Tour de France and other major races so soon after the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting it would be wiser to cancel this year's race. Last week, Brailsford warned he would pull his riders from the Tour de France if he deemed necessary but understands the importance of the Tour de France. Team Sky and Team Ineos have won seven of the last eight editions of the Tour de France.   

"If one event should happen this year, we would all choose for it to be the Tour," Brailsford told BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday, revealing later to Sporza that Team Ineos is already planning for the race and considering team selection strategies.

Team Ineos is part of the Velon business group of teams trying to wrestle some influence and economic power back from Tour de France organisers ASO and the UCI, the sport's international governing body.

Brailsford suggested that the expected impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on team sponsorship could help professional cycling to find a "better model, which is a bit more diversified and has the bigger races spread among the calendar so we don't rely so much on one race.

"Everyone would see the benefits of having a more robust structure," he told BBC Radio 4.

"It would allow people to plan for the medium-to-long term, rather than planning short-term and, just for some, survival on a short-term basis - that would be a very big game-changer. Modernising the business model going forward would be wise for everybody."

A number of teams have confirmed they are using government schemes to pay salaries, while others are trying to impose deep salary cuts and have already laid off staff. Brailsford avoided answering a question from Sporza when asked about Team Ineos' financial security due to the impact of COVID-19 but warned of the consequences if the 2020 season was lost.

Team Ineos' annual budget is estimated to be over £40 million and the highest in the sport.

"If we do get racing again in the autumn, then great. Some teams may suffer slightly more than others; depending on what business sector their main sponsor is in. But if we don’t race again until next year, it puts everyone under pressure," he admitted.

"Any sports team that is based 100 per cent on sponsorship, that doesn't compete for a very long time, is going to feel the effects. That's realist we have to be grown and accept that's the case."

Brailsford suggested there is a sense of solidarity amongst the teams and across the sport as sponsors cut back on their sponsorship to survive.

"While we're all quite fierce competitors on the road but we all need each other in the end to have a sport," he said.

"We can be big enemies but in reality, the health of sport requires healthy teams and a healthy sport structure and race structure. It's in all our interest to support each other and do the best we can for the sport, so we can build for the future."