“If the Tour should be canceled we should not hesitate. We face a deadly disease. That is more important,” Hinault told Le Parisien earlier this week. “Sport is fantastic and the Tour is one big party, but life is more important.”
With all WorldTour racing canceled through to May as the world enters shutdown in a bid to combat coronavirus, the Tour de France is one of the earliest top-tier races in the season that is still currently due to go ahead as scheduled.
Hinault, who dominated the Tour through the late 70s and early 80s, was wary of the huge crowds that turn out to watch the race every year as France enters festival-mode.
“We cannot say now that we will certainly organize the Tour despite everything,” Hinault said. “It is not up to me to make that decision and there is still time, but we have to ask ourselves if it is desirable for large groups of people to stand by the side of the road if there are still risks. Tens of thousands of people come to watch the Tour every day. ”
At present, the Tour de France is scheduled to go ahead as planned, rolling out of Nice on June 27. Tour boss Christian Prudhomme has kept his cards close to his chest regards possibly canceling the race, but struck an optimistic tone when speaking recently of ASO’s ability to rapidly adapt to situations. “We have this ability to change our plans if necessary,” Prudhomme said earlier this month. “Whenever local authorities ask us for something, we do it. It is even our specialty.”
As Europe sinks deeper into the coronavirus crisis, with more nations entering lockdown by the day, there is no immediate end in sight. With the Tour de France requiring thousands of assistants, marshals and support staff, not to mention local authority licenses and road closures, the machinery and preparation behind the race is enormous – and not something easily organized.
“We absolutely need to know at the beginning of June,” Hinault said. “The Tour is a gigantic machine. It takes an enormous amount of logistics, including for police and hotels. That’s why I say: we shouldn’t delay too long when canceling.”
Organizers of the Giro d’Italia and the monuments have already started eyeing slots in the fall calendar as they look to reschedule their canceled events. The Tour could be the next to join them.