The boss of the Vuelta a España is growing more confident the revised WorldTour calendar will go ahead, with the Spanish Grand Tour slated for late October.
Javier Guillén, the Vuelta’s race director says he is “very optimistic” about the three-week stage race going ahead and the longer-term future of his event, despite the extra complications of running a Grand Tour post-coronavirus compared with putting on a one-day race.
“We must adhere to a hygienic protocol, organisationally that will be very complicated because there is a new hotel every day and a new city every day,” Guillén told Sport.es.
Guillén hopes to not have to hold his race behind closed doors, saying “sport without an audience loses soul and essence,” before adding that he’s currently looking at possible solutions to avoid having to ban fans from the Vuelta.
Meanwhile, the rescheduled Tour de France takes place almost two months earlier, with French sports minister Roxana Maracineanu giving hope the French Grand Tour won’t have to happen behind closed doors, saying she can’t see why sports can’t have limited numbers of fans inside stadiums from the end of July.
“My desire is to give us chances to have popular sports [taking place] with supporters in stadiums, even in limited numbers, why not from the end of July if possible, ” Maracineanu told L’Alsace, after earlier comments from Prime Minister Édouard Philippe that gatherings of more than 5,000 people would be banned until September. “When I see matches behind closed doors currently, I much prefer to involve at least the groups of supporters so that they can enjoy the sporting spectacle.”
This apparent boost complicates France’s early decision to cancel their football league, the only one of the five main European leagues to do so, yet the implications for cycling also appear hazy.
One Dutch epidemiologist has said riding in a peloton poses a greater risk of coronavirus transmission than footballers playing on a pitch.
“In the peloton you hang in the same place for a long time compared to your predecessor. We also know from research that if you are in a certain place in that stream you continuously breathe in the air from your predecessor. In theory, this could therefore be a setting where transmission takes place,” Patricia Bruijning of Utretcht’s University Hospital told NOS. “You could say in that respect, riding in the peloton is a somewhat riskier situation than playing football on a large field.”
Bruijning says all potential risks must be considered, and that while her native Netherlands has started relaxing certain measures, allowing citizens to return to restaurants and cinemas, professional cycling will also have to make such trade-offs in relation to the risk and reward of holding the most lucrative race on the calendar.
Some members of the professional peloton have raised doubts about racing taking place in 2020, with Alessandro De Marchi the latest, saying he is “slightly pessimistic” the full calendar will go ahead.
“I try to keep that pessimism in me at bay, but it is inevitable,” De Marchi told Tuttobiciweb. “The coronavirus is a problem that affects the entire world. I hope that we will quickly get a reference point when the season can start again because that is also important for the teams.”