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Barguil questions possibility of a Tour de France without fans

Frenchman would rather see the Tour postponed to later in the year than have it raced without fans.

Warren Barguil (Arkea-Samsic) has cast doubt over the logistical possibility of a Tour de France ‘behind closed doors.’ Further to that, the Frenchman would rather see the Tour postponed than raced without roadside fans.

“A closed race would be impossible to achieve on the Tour de France — it is only in a stadium that it is possible,” Barguil told Ouest-France, Saturday.

Last week, news came that French ministers and Tour organizers ASO were discussing the possibility of a stripped-back Tour de France without start and finish villages, roadside fans, and podium ceremonies. The ‘behind closed doors’ format would strike the balance required to ensure public and rider safety in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, while allowing for the economic powerhouse of the sport to go ahead.

“We can’t stop people from going to the side of the road,” Barguil said. “I don’t know if it’s doable, actually. Place as many barriers, over 200 km, bring in more police to enforce the lock-up.”

The 2020 Tour, scheduled to start June 27, stretches over nearly 3,500 kilometers and expects to draw up to 12 million fans across the 21 stages. The pomp, ceremony and carnival atmosphere that accompanies the Tour makes it as much a French national celebration as a bike race, and Barguil is mindful of that.

“Let [the Tour] be shifted,” Barguil said. “The most important thing is that the Tour continues this year even if in November. It’s not just an event for the athletes. We also have to think of the many enthusiastic spectators. The best, if it is not possible to do it on the scheduled dates, is to postpone it.”

Earlier this week, Julian Alaphilippe spoke of his belief that the Tour would lose character without fans. “A Tour without an audience would not be the same thing,”Alaphilippe told RMC Sport. “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.”

Barguil is to race his sixth Tour this year, if and when it takes place. Having netted four stage wins and a King of the Mountains jersey through his career, the 28-year-old will this year be acting in support of Arkea-Samsic’s new leader Nairo Quintana. The Colombian had started the season on a tear and was eyeing a podium finish at the Tour. Having won Tour de la Provence and Tour des Alpes Maritimes and looking unstoppable in his mountaintop stage win at Paris-Nice, Quintana’s hopes had looked a strong possibility. However, after the majority of the peloton has been stuck training indoors for the past months, Barguil acknowledges that a Tour in June could see surprises and upsets.

“We won’t know where everyone is,” Barguil said. “I don’t really expect that we will race the Tour. But if we can resume normal life in May, a thorough preparation for the Tour is still possible.”

Latest reports suggest that race organizers ASO plan to reach their final decision about the fate and format of the Tour by mid-May.