Saturday, April 4, 2020

The Tour de France is still betting on a start at the end of June, but is considering other scenarios

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The cycling teams are also ready to consider a Tour de France without an audience. JEFF PACHOUD / AFP

The Tour de France feels the wind of the ball pass. The postponement of the Euro football and then the Olympic Games (Olympics) in the space of a week has left the event alone in the middle of the desert that has become the summer sports calendar.

Amaury Sport Organization (ASO) makes no official comments – like the International Cycling Union – on speculation about a cancellation or a switch to a reduced model of the race. Internally, there is no rush to decide.

The race, which is not visiting any foreign country this year, is still scheduled to start on June 27 from Nice, with an arrival in Paris on July 19. All the preparations are made, the meetings in the prefecture are closed until the last stage, the hotel rooms reserved. These days, the stage cities transmit to ASO the elements which will be used for the tourist guide of the Tour.

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The Olympic Games and the Euro, a source at ASO said, are quadrennial events, by definition postponed for one year. This is not the case with the Tour, the cancellation of which would jeopardize cycling sport. Only the two world wars were right about this social phenomenon, used to say the director of the Tour, Christian Prudhomme. Now that the Olympic Games have been postponed, the argument no longer weighs very heavily.

“It will be according to government instructions”

Because it presupposes the contribution of state and community services (repair of roads, 29,000 police, gendarmes and firefighters mobilized), the fate of the Tour 2020 is not only in the hands of the organizer. “We are not the ones who will say yes or no, they say at the sports ministry, it will be according to government guidelines. ” In a Tweet published late Wednesday, March 25, Minister Roxana Maracineanu gave the official line of the moment: “The Tour is a monument to sport. It is too early to decide. ”

You have to rely on ASO’s contacts, in regular contact with Christian Prudhomme and his family, to know the schedule that the company has set itself, already economically affected by the postponement of all its spring events (cycle races, semi -marathon and Paris marathon). Adrien Eymard, France marketing director for Continental tires, major sponsor of the Tour, says that no deadline has been mentioned, but that the decision will be made in “A few days, a few weeks. They will not wait until early June. ” “If we are still in mid-April in a phase of rising pandemic, the Tour becomes very, very complicated”, said Marc Madiot, manager of the Groupama-FDJ team and president of the National Cycling League.

“It will be complicated if the confinement exceeds 1er may “

Stéphane Villain, vice-president of the departmental council of Charente-Maritime, where the race will observe its first day of rest, and mayor Les Républicains (LR) of Châtelaillon-Plage, starting town of the eleventh stage, joined Christian Prudhomme by phone on Sunday March 22: “According to him, for the moment there is no problem, the Tour will go as planned. The possibility of a postponement has not been raised. It would be more complicated if compulsory confinement exceeds the fateful date of 1er May, especially for training runners. “

“Christian Prudhomme is waiting to know the end of the confinement period, confirms Jean Deguerry, LR president of the departmental council of Ain, which will host two stages. Last week, he awaited the advice of the scientific committee to find out when the riders would be allowed to go out to train. ”

More pessimistic, Philippe Dubernard, in charge of coordinating the Tour de France in Sisteron (Alpes-de-Haute-Provence), which will welcome a stage arrival and departure, “Continue to believe in the organization of the Tour, even if it seems increasingly difficult and derisory compared to what we are experiencing.” The mayor, Daniel Spagnou (Agir), wants to be fixed within three weeks.

The Tour de France as a recovery race?

If everyone seems to agree on the deadline of 1er May, opinions differ on the hypothesis of a closed-door tour, indeed considered by the organizers. “The economic model of the Tour is not based on ticketing but on TV rights and media broadcasting, recalled Minister Roxana Maracineanu on France Bleu on Wednesday. Everyone understood the benefits of staying at home and therefore favoring the television show rather than the live show. In the end, it would not be so penalizing since we could follow him on television. “

At Continental, we confirm that the scenario is on the table and that it is preferable to cancellation, even if that implies the elimination of the advertising caravan and perhaps of the “departure village” (which allows customers to be invited ). “We cross our fingers so that it can be done on a format closest to normal”, specifies its marketing director.

The teams are also ready to envisage a Tour without an audience, even if this scheme would be, according to Marc Madiot (Groupama-FDJ), difficult to implement. Iwan Spekenbrink, boss of Sunweb training and who represents the teams in the weekly negotiations with the organizers and the International Cycling Union (UCI), explains: “Without an audience, on another date … as long as health is assured. It is important that, in one way or another, there is a Tour de France. I can even imagine that it will be the restart race, although it will be necessary to make sure that everyone has been able to train before a minimum of weeks on the road. “

A hypothesis that does not delight Marc Madiot, for whom “It takes a minimum of races in June to start under roughly normal conditions”.

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Elected officials standing against a closed-door tour

The most reluctant to convince will be the elected officials, all opposed to the hypothesis of a Tour without an audience. Forcing their inhabitants to stay at home, away from the bustle of the Tour, when they have paid to welcome it seems inconceivable.

“A Tour with runners but no audience, it doesn’t stick”, says Michel Valla, various right mayor of Privas (Ardèche), arrival of the fifth stage. “It would be catastrophic, adds Daniel Spagnou, to Sisteron. Even if it’s a heartbreaker, I prefer to postpone it to make it a very nice celebration next year. ”

“In camera, the riders can run, but this is no longer the Tour. And for us, communities, it would be terrible frustration, annoyed Robert Casadebaig, various right mayor of Laruns (Pyrénées-Atlantiques). If it has to be done, we will not shirk. But preventing people from going to the mountain stages seems pretty unrealistic to me. “

For communities, the postponement to August would also not be of great interest: at this period, the tourism industry was already running at full speed, with or without the Tour de France.

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