Coronavirus: Rescheduled Tour de France to start August 29

Elite cycling will breathe a huge sigh of relief as the Tour accounts for most of its earnings

Tour de France. AFP
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The 2020 Tour de France will take place from August 29-September 20, organisers have announced.

Cycling's flagship event was forced to reschedule its original start date of June 27 due to the extension of the coronavirus lockdown.

The new dates follow French President Emmanuel Macron's extension of a ban on large public gatherings until mid-July.

While the news comes as a relief to professional cycling teams and fans, it also moves the three-week race out of its traditional slot in the summer holidays where roadside crowds of around 12 million would be expected to gather to cheers on cyclists.

"Following the president's address on Monday evening, where large-scale events were banned in France until mid-July as a part of the fight against the spread of Covid-19, the organisers of the Tour de France, in agreement with the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), have decided to postpone the Tour de France to Saturday 29th August to Sunday 20th September 2020," organisers Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) said.

It said the race would follow the same route as the original itinertary, starting in Nice and ending in Paris.

The new date solves a series of problems after organisers faced up to the reality that the race could never take place on the original dates.

Elite cycling will breathe a huge sigh of relief as the Tour accounts for most of its earnings.

"The Tour represents around 60 per cent of earnings in a season," French team AG2R boss Vincent Lavenu said last week.

Cycling's governing body the UCI announced the new dates, saying that May's postponed Giro d'Italia would be raced after the Tour de France, and the Vuelta a espana after that, with dates to be announced in May.

"The Tour de France is 3,000km of smiles," race director Christian Prudhomme has repeated many times in the past in reference to the Tour and its fans.

France has been under lockdown since March 17 in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus which has claimed the lives of over 15,700 people in the country.

The Tour de France then will likely become more of a shared national experience than usual and could be viewed by the general public as something of a return to normal with some predicting it could be part of the healing process from the lockdown.

"This period of confinement will hurt us all morally. We will need a cure for it and a Tour de France would help give us a sense of stability," 94-year-old former cyclist Raphael Geminiani told L'Equipe recently.