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Alaphilippe: ‘A Tour without an audience would not be the same thing’

French star admits that a Tour 'behind closed doors' is better than no Tour, but 'prefers not to imagine' the prospect.

Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe ‘prefers not to imagine’ a Tour de France without fans.

Having set French hopes alight through the 2019 Tour with dazzling attacks, stage wins, and an against-all-odds 14 days in the yellow jersey, the Deceuninck-Quick-Step rider is pinning his hopes on the Tour going ahead with all the accompanying carnival of roadside fans, race caravan, and podium ceremonies this summer.

“I think it would be special, I don’t prefer to imagine,” Alaphilippe said of a Tour ‘behind closed doors.’ At present, it is looking increasingly likely that the race will be held without roadside fans as race organizers scramble for a compromise between holding the event and ensuring public and rider safety.

“The public is part of the Tour de France,” the 27-year-old told RMC Sport this week. “Imagine the World Cup in a stadium without an audience. If we have to do it, we will do it, but I prefer to imagine that the virus will disappear and that we will do it with the public.”

Alaphilippe spoke in the wake of last week’s news that French sports ministers are considering a stripped back version of the Tour. With the Tour de France forming a vital part of cycling’s economic model and irreplaceable part of French culture and identity, ministers and race organizers ASO are considering an event without fans and the carnival that accompanies the race as a means of minimizing coronavirus  risks.

“I am divided. For me, the Tour is the Tour and if it takes place, even if it is postponed, it is the best thing,” Alaphilippe said. “But a Tour without an audience would not be the same thing. If we have to run it without an audience, we will do it and everyone will be happy. But I do not prefer to imagine.”

The general feeling in the peloton backs up Alaphilippe’s sentiments. Groupama-FDJ director Marc Madiot told Libération, Friday, that the Tour would “symbolize a new period after the crisis,” even if held without fans. Likewise, Daniel Oss told VeloNews of his hopes for seeing the Tour take place this summer. “As an athlete I just really hope,” Oss said earlier this week. “The Tour is the main event in the season, or certainly in the summer. So it would be great to do it.”

According to a report in RTBF, Tour de France owners ASO have indicated that a final decision will be made in the middle of May on the fate and format of the Tour.