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Plan for a late-August 2020 Tour de France leaked

Jets launch the final day of racing along the Champs Elysees
Jets launch the final day of racing along the Champs Elysees (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)

The French newspaper Dauphiné Libéré reported on Tuesday that it has exclusive information of a plan to run the 2020 Tour de France between August 29 and September 20. 

The organisers, ASO, planned to wait until May 15 to make a decision to postpone the race because of the COVID-19 pandemic but their plans were forced on Monday after French President Emmanuel Macron announced a ban on mass gatherings until at least mid-July.

ASO confirmed to The Associated Press Tuesday that it is consulting with the UCI on a new date for the French Grand Tour.

"Given that it’s now impossible that the Tour starts at its planned date, we are consulting with the (International Cycling Union) to try and find new dates,” ASO said, according to a report in APNews.

There was speculation on Tuesday of an August timeframe for the Tour de France, originally scheduled to start June 27, with Marca reporting that an agreement between the Grand Tour organisers gave the Tour de France priority in the revised calendar. The Vuelta a España was reportedly moving to September and the Giro d'Italia being held in October.

If the August 29 to September date is correct, the final stage on the Champs-Élysées in Paris would conflict with the first day of the UCI Road World Championships in Aigle, Switzerland, when the elite men's individual time trial was due to run.

Whether or not the revised dates for the Tour de France are realistic or not depends on the actions of governments worldwide - whether the coronavirus infection rates fall to acceptable levels and nations lift travel restrictions.

Governments worldwide are facing immense pressure to ease the strict lockdown as the economic fallout from the pandemic has led to mass unemployment and huge burdens on social services and healthcare. 

The French government extended its lockdown through May 11 and expects the economy to shrink 8 per cent this year according to recent reports. It rolled out a €100 billion rescue package that included tax deferment and support for small businesses - pushing the French budget deficit past World War II levels to 9 per cent of the gross domestic product, according to Budget Minister Gerald Darmanin and France Info.

The expected announcement of the Tour de France's new dates comes even before any positive effects of the existing lockdown have been confirmed. The number of reported deaths appears to have passed a peak, but any lifting of virus suppression measures such as the bans on mass gatherings are expected to lead to a second wave of the pandemic about six weeks later in the absence of a widely available vaccine, according to models by the Imperial College. 

Even if France has the virus under control and loosens restrictions on May 11, a second round of suppression might be necessary even before the rescheduled dates.

Regardless, it is expected that the ASO will announced an August 29 date for the Grand Depart in Nice, with the first mountain stages in the Pyrenees taking place two months after the originally scheduled dates. 

The first rest day would fall on Monday, September before the race turned toward the Alps with the major summit finish on the Grand Colombier on September 13. The mountainous third week of the Tour would culminate with the 36km uphill time trial to La Planche des Belles Filles before the final parade into Paris on September 20.