UCI President David Lappartient has said admitted 'it'll be a disaster' if the Tour de France is not held in September as part of the new men's WorldTour calendar that was presented on Tuesday, revealing the end of June as a deadline for a final decision on the Grand Boucle and the UCI's own Road World Championships.
The new calendar confirmed the Tour de France for August 29-September 20, with the Giro d'Italia between October 3-25, the Vuelta a España from October 20 to November 8.
Most of the Classics will all be held during the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana, sparking a clash of major race dates. The first race on the condensed, intense three and a half month calendar is Strade Bianche on August 1, while the 2020 WorldTour will end on November 8.
Lappartient confirmed he is against races being held 'behind closed doors' but admitted that they will no doubt be 'regulated' in some way to limit crowd sizes and protect the public and the riders. The Criterium du Dauphine is expected to be strictly 'regulated' so that it can be held in France in August.
The Frenchman appeared aware that racing can only return if the COVID-19 pandemic is under control across Europe and if governments and municipalities authorize each race.
"I'm confident but careful, because like everyone, including our different governments, we don’t know the situation in the coming weeks," he said during a conference call with media on Tuesday when asked about the chances of the Tour de France going ahead.
"I'm confident the situation will be better but however there's a risk it's not the case and that we can go back to a lockdown and so we have to cancel some races. I do believe we're able to have a Tour de France but I won’t say that I'm 100 per cent sure. That wouldn't be realistic from my side. I hope we can have a Tour de France this year, otherwise it'll be a disaster."
Lappartient described the new August to November calendar as the Plan B, admitting there was little chance for a Plan C, with the Tour de France even later in the year.
"If the Tour de France can’t take place in September, I think we'll be in a very, very difficult situation,' Lappartient said seriously. "It's quite difficult to have the Tour de France at the end of the season. Let's hope that the Plan B will be okay. Because the Tour de France is close to 50 per cent of the visibility for a team, and if you invest in cycling the return comes from bring seen at the Tour de France. If we don’t have the Tour de France it could be a disaster.
"If we have a 2020 season it will be a big challenge for some teams but if we don’t have a 2020 season it will be a even greater challenge and we'd probably lose more teams; that's why it crucial to have the 2020 season and why we're pushing so hard."
Lappartient justified creating a new WorldTour calendar during the COVID-19 pandemic, reiterating that cancelling the whole season would have been a disaster for the sport, with teams folding and riders facing even bigger salary cuts.
"We had two options: the first to say In March that the season was closed and move on to 2021 and start again at the Tour Down Under in January. But we believe that it could be a disaster for the sport, for the organisers, the teams and the rider's employment," Lappartient said.
"We wanted to save all we can save. We are also fully aware that the situation is moving and nobody knows the exact situation in two or three months. There could be a second wave and so no cycling. We are fully aware of this but it's out mission to prepare a second part of the season if we can be back with some wonderful races."
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