With plans afoot to hold a scaled-down version of the Tour de France with restrictions on crowd sizes, last year's fourth-place finisher Emanuel Buchmann has argued that racing without spectators will be "nothing new", given he and most of his colleagues have competed in the Middle East in recent years.
On Sunday evening, French sports minister Roxana Maracineanu revealed she had held meetings with Tour de France bosses over limiting the number of people at the race, which has been pushed back to August 29.
Buchmann, who was 25 seconds off the podium last July, said he was optimistic the 2020 edition would go ahead in an interview with the German press. Citing the UAE Tour, which forms part of a block of early-season racing in the Middle East, he argued the peloton has experience of racing on quiet roads.
"It would not be nice and it would be a completely different feeling than the past few years, but we could do it for a year," Buchmann said of a Tour without fans.
"We also do a lot of bike races where there aren't that many spectators. At the UAE Tour, there are hardly any spectators on the roadside, so it's nothing new to us."
Having claimed a breakthrough fourth place last year, Buchmann has now set his sights on the podium for this year's race.
"The goal is to improve. That would be a place on the podium, but everything has to fit. You have to get through the three weeks without injuries and crashes. You can quickly lose time because of something stupid," he said.
"If the podium is the goal, then victory is not far away, but it's not like my only goal is to win the Tour."
Buchmann, who is based in the Austrian Alps, will ramp up his training this week by doing the Everest Challenge, riding up the Haimingerberg climb 10 times on Friday to reach a total of 8848 metres of altitude gain.
With much of the world in lockdown, anti-doping testing has plummeted, but Buchmann has no real concerns about his rivals cheating during this period.
"I had my last test in mid-March just before the lockdown. Since then I have had no doping test," he said.
"I assume that the system will restart normally and that all athletes will be tested regularly. I also don't know if it would have made sense to dope for the Tour at the end of April."
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