UCI president says ‘not holding the Tour de France in 2020 would be a disaster’

'We believe it's our mission to prepare a second part of the season, if we are able to have the second part'

(Image credit: AFP via Getty Images)

The UCI president says it would be a “disaster” if the Tour de France doesn't take place in 2020, but added that he is cautiously confident the race will be go ahead.

On Tuesday (May 5), the UCI revealed its proposed calendar for the cycling season after all racing was suspended due to the coronavirus crisis.

While the international governing body has found space for almost all major races in the later summer and autumn, president David Lappartient said he is well aware that the global situation could still completely upend those plans.

In a conference call with cycling journalists from around the world, Lappartient said: “We are also fully aware that the situation is moving worldwide, that nobody knows what will the situation in two or three months, that maybe we can be in a situation where there will be no cycling. We are fully aware of this, but however we believe it's our mission to prepare a second part of the season, if we are able to have the second part, and we hope so.

“What we could have done is say at the end of March ‘the season is finished Let's see in 2021 meet up at the Tour Down Under in January’, but we will believe that would be a disaster for our sport, it would be disaster for the teams, for the riders, for the staff and for the organisers, and we wanted to be in a situation to save everything we can.”

The UCI had the unenviable task of trying to fit three Grand Tours, all the Monument Classics and a host of prestigious stages races – all normally spread across 10 months of the season – into just four months in late 2020.

Riders may be forced to choose between some key races as plenty of races will overlap, as the UCI has given priority to the biggest races on the calendar.

A huge new addition to the racing calendar is a women’s Paris-Roubaix, which has been met by an outpouring of support from the pros.

The Tour de France has been postponed from its planned spot in late June and July, and will instead start in Nice on August 29.

But Lappartient says he is aware that the fate of the race is not secure.

On whether the Tour will run in September, he said: “I'm confident but careful.

“No one knows exactly what the situation will be in the coming weeks.

“I do believe that we will be able to have the Tour de France, but I will not say that I am 100% sure, that would not be realistic from my from my side, I just hope that they say we will be able to have the Tour de France this year or it would be a disaster.”

Lappartient said that almost 50 per cent of a team's visibility across the cycling season comes from the Tour de France, which means that 50 per cent of the return from a sponsor's investment is based around the three-week race.

The French government is planning to ease its lockdown restrictions later this month, meaning pros living in France will be allowed to train outside for the first time in almost two months.

But authorities in France have also extended the ban on major sporting events – those with more than 5,000 spectators – until at least September 1.

The French sports minister has previously suggested the Tour de France could be held behind closed doors, with fans banned from gathering at the road side, but Lappartient said he is reluctant to hold the race without the spectators.

He said: “I don't think our sport is a sport to be held behind closed doors, because we need to feel the fans around, but we can maybe regulate the number of people that will be the course for some races, for example the Critérium du Dauphiné.

“I know there are some on-going discussions between [Dauphiné and Tour organiser] ASO and the, the French government and the local authorities for this, so it will probably not be completely closed door but it will be a regulated."

The Dauphinè is currently scheduled to run in a shortened format from from August 12-16,

>>> Emergency cycle lanes and zero VAT on bikes needed after lockdown, says Bicycle Association

But on the Tour de France or the Giro d’Italia being held behind closed doors, he said: “We can maybe regulate how many people gathered in the same place at the same moment, but not to have closed doors.”

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Alex Ballinger

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.