In Brief

Tour de France: will cycling’s grand event be staged without any fans?

French minister of sport says it’s ‘too early’ to make a decision on this year’s race

The Tokyo Olympics and Euro 2020 have been postponed for a year and Wimbledon is also expected to be cancelled. 

Now attention is turning to the Tour de France, one of the most iconic events in the sporting calendar, which is scheduled to start in Nice on Saturday 27 June, two days before the tennis grand slam in London.

When asked yesterday if Le Tour would be scrapped, the French minister of sport Roxana Maracineanu mooted the outlandish idea that the race could be staged without spectators.

“We have [imposed spectator bans] for other competitions before,” said Maracineanu. “Everyone understands the benefits of staying at home and therefore favouring the television show rather than the live show.”

Maracineanu added that “there’s a time for everything, we have a more urgent fight, it’s still too early to decide [about the race]”.

May’s Giro d’Italia has already been cancelled and admirable though Maracineanu’s desire is to stage the Tour de France, the idea of running it without spectators seems unrealistic.

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Running out of time

“I’m an optimist, but I don’t see how they can justify running the Tour de France,” said Patrick Lefevere, the head of Belgium’s Deceuninck-Quickstep team. 

“Who can enter France and who can’t? Are we really going to stuff the hotels with people? I can’t imagine someone waving a magic wand in early July and the coronavirus crisis suddenly being resolved.”

The Tour normally draws between ten and 12 million spectators, including tens of thousands from the UK. 

At the moment France, along with other EU countries, has imposed a 30-day travel ban by non-EU nationals. That is expected to remain in place for as long as the continent is ravaged by the coronavirus, and cases are continuing to rise in France and most European nations. 

Beating pandemic is the priority

The Guardian says that “a deadline of 1 May seems likely for a decision on the Tour, because it will be clear by then whether the outbreak has peaked in France”. 

That would allow seven weeks for cyclists to prepare for the race, a daunting challenge given the brutal nature of the three-week tour.

“There needs to be a Tour de France,” Groupama-FDJ manager Marc Madiot told the Guardian, although team leader Thibaut Pinot - whose mother is a nurse and on the frontline of the pandemic in France - was more circumspect. 

“The question is not whether the Tour de France can take place at any cost or not,” Pinot said. “My concern lies mainly in the fact that if we cancel the Tour de France, it would mean that the pandemic has not stopped.”

Today’s back pages

Non-league clubs threaten legal action against The FA and England rugby coach Eddie Jones accepts pay cut

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