ASO’s announcement that the postponed 2020 Tour de France has been rescheduled for August 29-September 20 was a carefully choreographed affair. France Télévisions, domestic broadcasting partner for ASO events, led with the news on its Journal des 13 heures bulletin, where an interview with Tour director Christian Prudhomme was followed immediately by reaction from the man who wore the maillot jaune for fourteen days, won two stages and placed 5th overall on last year’s Tour, Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep).
“It’s super news. I heard yesterday evening that the Tour de France would still go ahead and it was a great joy because I had started to lose hope a little bit in the current climate,” Alaphilippe told France Télévisions via Skype from his residence in Andorra.
“It’s a boost to the motivation now that we have a date, and I think that’s also going to bring a lot of joy to the French people. It will mean that the health situation will have evolved a lot by then – I hope so, in any case – and that’s a great thing.”
France has reported more than 15,000 COVID-19 deaths and is currently in a state of lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this week, President Emmanuel Macron extended the current period of confinement until May 11 and announced that all public gatherings were suspended until at least the middle of July.
On Tuesday, ASO acknowledged that the Tour could no longer take place on its originally scheduled dates of June 27-July 19 before formally announcing its intention to hold the race in Autumn for the first time in its history.
The latest ever Tour Grand Départs were in 1908 and 1998, when the race began on July 13. The latest finish was in 1908, when Lucien Petit-Breton claimed his second victory in Paris on August 9.
Traditionally a summer festival centred around the French holiday season, which begins in earnest ahead of the Bastille Day celebrations on July 14, the 2020 Tour – if it does indeed take place – will be more autumnal in feel and will certainly have fewer fans on the roadside, even before social distancing measures are taken into consideration.
The rescheduled 2020 Tour would start in Nice on August 29 and finish on the Champs-Élysées on September 20.
“It’s just part of the consequences of the long confinement that we’re experiencing right now, but it would simply be a good thing that the Tour de France was taking place,” Alaphilippe said.
“The children will be back at school so there might be fewer spectators on the road and on television but there will be a lot of joy all the same. The Tour de France is part of France and it will be a big party because everybody will be happy that the Tour de France is taking place.”
Alaphilippe last raced at Paris-Nice in March, when he placed 16th overall in the final WorldTour event to take place before the coronavirus pandemic saw the cycling season suspended.
The UCI announced on Wednesday that all competition is now suspended until at least July 1, but Alaphilippe expressed hope that he might return to action before the end of the year.
The Frenchman is resident in Andorra, which has imposed lockdown restrictions similar to those in place in France, meaning that he is unable to train outdoors and has instead been compelled to ride on his home trainer.
“I’m respecting the lockdown, which means I’m training indoors and that’s starting to get a bit long,” Alaphilippe said. “I’m looking forward to getting back to riding outside and starting normal life again.”