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Tour de France could be postponed until August

Egan Bernal rides on the Champs Elysees at the 2019 Tour de France
Egan Bernal rides on the Champs-Élysées at the 2019 Tour de France (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

With French president Emmanuel Macron confirming no major public events can be held until at least mid-July due to the effects of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the Tour de France will have to be postponed from its planned dates of June 27 to July 19. Spanish newspaper Marca has claimed that cycling's biggest race could be held between August 2-25, with more accurate dates more likely to be Saturday, August 1 to Sunday, August 23.

In an address to the nation, Macron extend the lockdown period for France until May 11 with only gradual lifting of the measures after that if the incidence of COVID-19 decreases.

Schools, restaurants, cafés, cinemas and other leisure activities will remain closed until May 11 and will face new rules to limit the spread of the virus when they reopen. The COVID-19 virus has killed over 14,000 people in France.

Other sporting events have been postponed or cancelled but the Tour de France has a hugely symbolic value for France. It also is the economic cornerstone of men's professional cycling, generating an estimated 70 per cent of teams' sponsor visibility and value. A number of teams have already cut or deferred rider salaries due to the effects of COVID-19 on the global economy and team sponsorship. They hope the Tour de France can be held sometime later in 2020.

According to Marca, an agreement between the three Grand Tour organisers means the Tour de France has priority in the post-COVID-19 calendar, with the Vuelta a España moving back to September and then the Giro d'Italia in October.

All three races would still last three weeks, suggesting that the one-day Classics and other races would have to fit around the Grand Tours, with possible overlaps. Depending on the situation in different countries, some races could take place as early as August, with riders given at least a month to train on open roads and a shorter stage race used to prepare for the Tour de France.  

ASO own both the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España, via the Unipublic company, and so it is likely that an arrangement on dates benefiting both races can be struck. The gentleman's agreement amongst the Grand Tour organisers seems to be a way to stop the Vuelta a España and the Giro d'Italia being reduced to just two weeks.

"They will be 3-3-3, never 3-2-2 or 3-3-2," Mauro Vegni, the director of the Giro d'Italia told Marca, following on from similar comments from Vuelta a España boss Javier Guillén.

However, the Grand Depart of the Vuelta in the Netherlands appears at risk due to the added logistical problems. The Giro d'Italia has already confirmed this year's race will not start in Hungary, with extra stages in the south of Italy likely to make up for the loss of the opening three stages.   

Meanwhile, in the Vuelta (which the organizer shares with the Tour -ASO-) they are calm because, for the moment, September will continue to be 'their' month, although the departure from the Netherlands in August is not so clear. 

The key for everyone is to 'save' the Tour and, once it has the date fixed as it seems now, to fix the other two big ones with at least a week of difference between the end of one and the start of the other.

ASO has refused to comment on its plans for the Tour de France but has reportedly set a deadline of May 15 to consider race dates.