Coronavirus: Tour de France could be viable without crowds, says Mitchelton-Scott boss

By Peter Thompson 1 April 2020 2
Coronavirus: Tour de France could be viable without crowds, says Mitchelton-Scott boss

Mitchelton-Scott sport director Matt White believes it could be viable for the Tour de France to go ahead as scheduled without spectators, though he thinks putting the race back may be the best option.

The most prestigious Grand Tour event on the calendar is due to be staged from June 27 to July 19, but this year's race is in doubt due to the coronavirus crisis.

French minister for youth and sport Roxana Maracineanu last week talked of the possibility that the Tour could be given the green light to be held with no fans along the route, depending on the situation at the time.

White, who revealed that approximately 85 to 90 per cent of his team are currently in lockdown, said racing without crowds is not out of the question – but the safety of those involved is paramount.

He said: "The Tour de France without crowds would be weird. But, a lot of our early season races and smaller races don't have big crowds. It would feel strange for the riders, to be competing at our showcase event with minimal people, but it would work.

"Even if there was only the 2,000 people travelling, it would be a positive for the French economy, and obviously the TV audience would be huge because people are looking for things to watch and once sport does recommence, I am sure it would rate highly.

"It's viable and we could do it, but the bigger question is how do we move that circus around France in a safe way. At the end of the day it has to be safe for the French public, safe for everyone in that travelling group and achievable for the French resources."

White also feels there must be competitive cycling prior to the Tour de France, as returning to action and going straight into such a huge race "doesn't work for the riders".

"The team and all teams support what is best for the general population,” White added.

“I am pretty sure by the month of July things might have calmed down a considerable amount, but will they have calmed down enough to safely support a couple of thousand people, coming together from different parts of Europe and the world, for the Tour de France?

"We're not talking about four or five venues; we are a travelling circus. We're talking about 2,000 people; teams, media, logistics and movement between 20 hotels over 25 days. Safety has to remain the priority.

"By May, I think we're going to have to see the virus nearly out in most of Europe for ASO [Amaury Sport Organisation] to consider it running on the dates that it is currently set for. By then you hope athletes are also on the road. If athletes aren't on the road by May, there's no way you can run competition in June.

"We have to have some competition before the Tour de France.  You can't have the Tour de France as the first race. That doesn't work for the riders, simple as that.

"The next four or five weeks is crucial, that the virus infections come down to a very low level in Europe. At the moment we're not seeing that, and I would think that as it stands at the moment, it would be pretty hard to run the Tour de France at the current dates starting at the end of June.

"But now with the Olympics off the cards, it does leave a window for later in July and even early August. Maybe that's the most viable option to run the Tour de France in full, and I'm sure that's what the ASO want to do – they want to run a three-week Tour de France."

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