Coronavirus: Tour de France Plan B could push race finish into August

Julian Alaphilippe and Thibaut Pinot
Julian Alaphilippe and Thibaut Pinot at the 2019 Tour (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

The Tour de France could be postponed by four weeks and so finish in mid-August, as part of a Plan B to ensure the race will go ahead in 2020 despite the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

According to reports in French newspaper Le Parisien and the Spanish news agency Efe, Tour de France organiser ASO has contacted the mayors of some of the start and finish towns for the 2020 race route to check support for the delay.

The new Plan B dates - if French medical experts, the government, and the UCI rule the race can go ahead - would be to start in Nice on Saturday July 25 and end in Paris on August 16.

The 2020 Tour de France is currently scheduled for June 27-July 19 but few expect the race to go ahead on those dates due to the severity of COVID-19 pandemic and the strict rules in place aimed at limiting the spread of the virus.

This early date was chosen to allow riders to finish the race and travel to Tokyo for the Olympic Games. With the Olympics now postponed until 2021 and more time needed for France and other nations to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 virus, a later date appears the best solution.

Other major sporting events across Europe have been postponed or cancelled but the Tour de France is seen as vital for the survival of a number of leading professional teams who rely on the global visibility of the three-week race to justify their title sponsorships. It would also be seen as emblematic of France's recovery from COVID-19.     

Last week, race director Christian Prudhomme ruled out the idea of trying to put on a Tour de France behind closed doors after local majors pushed back on the idea because it would severely limit any tourism and economic benefits. Those same mayors are reportedly in favour of a delay to later in the summer. Towns and locations pay a reported 80,000 Euro to host a stage start and at least 120,000 Euro for a stage finish, knowing they benefit from the tourism and spending of the huge crowds. 

"Better to host the Tour de France in August than not to host it or host it without an audience," one mayor told the Efe news agency.

"It's not a problem for us to delay a month if the public heath situation is better by then. We can keep the planned logistics," Michel Villa of Privas, the town due to host the stage 5 finish, said.

"July 1 was perfect because it allowed us to launch the tourist season but this year everything will be delayed. And I don't think the hotels will be full in August."

All racing has been stopped since Paris-Nice in mid-March, with all the spring Classics and other races postponed or cancelled. The next major races still scheduled to run this year are the Tour de France for the men and the rescheduled Trofeo Alfredo Binda for the women on June 6. 

While the Tour de Suisse has been cancelled, ASO is likely to try to organise the Critérium du Dauphiné in late June as a test of its organising ability in a post-COVID-19 scenario and also to give riders the chance to race before starting a three-week Grand Tour.

ASO has refused to comment on its plans for the Tour de France but has reportedly set a deadline of May 15 to decide if the Tour will run on its scheduled dates or if it will be postponed.

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