Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme has told the French press that the race will not take place behind closed doors, despite the ongoing coronavirus crisis, and that he and ASO are working towards La Grande Boucle taking place at some point this summer.
"As things stand, the Tour de France is still set to take place as scheduled [from June 27-July 19]," Prudhomme told Sports-Auvergne.fr via telephone on Wednesday. "Of course, everything depends on what happens with the coronavirus pandemic.
"In the words 'Tour de France', the most important one is 'France'. It's the health situation of the country that counts. There's only one thing that I want, and that's that the Tour de France takes place this summer," he said. "That's not for the Tour de France's sake; more that if it doesn't take place, it'll mean that the country is in a catastrophic situation, which we really hope isn't the case."
Prudhomme added that he and his ASO colleagues were currently discussing the possibility of the race being held at a later date, with rumours circulating that it could be in later July or August now that the Olympic Games have been cancelled.
One thing was certain for Prudhomme, however, according to the Sports Auvergne website: "The Tour de France will not take place 'behind closed doors'."
Last week, France's Minister of Youth and Sports, Roxana Maracineanu, told the press that one possibility could be to stage this year's Tour behind closed doors – without any fans in attendance along the roadside, or at the start or finish areas.
A number of riders, including 2018 Tour champion Geraint Thomas, have said how strange it would be for them to race without spectators, although Groupama-FDJ boss Marc Madiot said that if the French public could only watch the race on television "it would be a symbol: the beginning of some things starting up again".
Prudhomme, however, is adamant that the race needs to take place as normal, in a safe environment so that fans can enjoy the spectacle from the roadside, and ASO have already set a date of May 15 as the deadline for a decision on whether the race will take place, and on which dates if so.