Some of the sport's biggest names look set to miss out on a big pay-day due to the cancellation of a number of the lucrative post-Tour de France criteriums this year, which are held in towns and villages across France, the Netherlands and Belgium. According to Vélo Magazine, France will have just two post-Tour crits this year – down from 12 in 2019.
While such events pale into insignificance versus the concerns many riders will have for the future of their teams and the security of their jobs following cycling's shutdown due to the coronavirus, and what has clearly been a very difficult struggle for the UCI and race organisers to find calendar slots for the world's biggest stage races and one-day events, the purpose of the post-Tour crits to bring star names to the doorsteps of eager and supportive fans will nevertheless be sorely missed.
The biggest names from each year's Tour tend to command not-insignificant appearance fees, and the winners of the yellow, green, polka-dot and white jerseys proudly parade such jerseys in front of large, paying crowds for the city-centre circuit races, where fans look for that special 'selfie' or autograph.
According to L'Equipe on Monday, Vélo Magazine reports that only the Critostar de Choisy-le-Roi, in the southern suburbs of Paris, and the new Grand Dole criterium, in eastern France, near Dijon, will take place this year from among the usual dozen events in France.
The Critostar has been rescheduled for September 21 – the day after the finish of the Tour on the Champ-Elysées, and just an hour's drive away.
"For us, there's a guarantee of success, because we are guaranteed to have riders who will come from the Tour," organiser Eric Ramos told Vélo Magazine. "I didn't want to postpone the criterium, as it then might have been hard to come back, because your sponsors could forget you very quickly.
"Each year, we organise a dinner for people who pay to eat with the riders and who finance part of the organisation of our race, so it's a great opportunity. With that and other local help, we should be able to get by," he said.
"We don't think we'd be able to manage the spectators, given the enthusiasm we had last season," the organiser of the Ronde d'Aix criterium in Aix-en-Provence, Jean-Michel Bourgoin, said, concerned by crowd limits that could still be left in place by the French government. "The criterium is a popular festival. If we have to limit the number of people coming, which isn't really in the spirit of the event, then it's not worth it."
The Grand Dole criterium, meanwhile – set for September 23 – is a brand-new event, organised by AG2R La Mondiale team mechanic Franck Boudot.
"Of our 83 partners, 78 have already paid to be part of the event, so we're not worried that we may have to cancel," Boudot said. "In addition, a lot of other events in Dole have been cancelled, and so everyone is especially looking forward to the race, which is great."
Dole, in the Jura department of the Franche-Comté region in eastern France, is also close to both Aigle and Martigny, in Switzerland, where this year's World Championships will be held, which means that the world's best are set to be nearby from September 20-27.
"We have two sponsors: Alexandre Pasteur, from France Télévisions, and [two-time Tour de France winner] Bernard Thévenet, who will be there. And [current AG2R pro] Alexandre Vuillermoz should give us a hand, as should Thibaut Pinot, who is a Franc-Comtois," said Boudot, with the Groupama-FDJ rider a very real contender for Tour victory this year, and a rider who would be a very popular participant in Dole, whether he appeared in the yellow jersey or not.
In the Netherlands and Belgium, meanwhile – where a number of well-attended post-Tour crits usually also take place each summer – organisers have also had to cancel or postpone their events.
Back in April, the organisers of both the Natourcriterium Aalst and the Natourcriterium Roeselare – both in Belgium – announced that they would be cancelling their 2020 events and returning in 2021 following the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus and, back then, the Tour's dates.
The Daags na de Tour crit, held in Boxmeer, in the Netherlands, however, is set to take place the day after the finish of the Tour de France, on September 21, according to the event website, on the same day as the Critostar.
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