Groupama-FDJ boss Marc Madiot is pinning his and his French nation’s hopes on the successful running of the Tour de France this summer.
“Deep down, I only hope for one thing: that the Tour takes place in July,” Madiot said. “A Tour in July can symbolize a new period after the crisis.”
Although the spring classics season, Giro d’Italia, and Olympic Games have all been canceled or re-scheduled in the past month as the coronavirus pandemic has left the world in lockdown, the Tour de France is still due to go ahead as planned, June 27 – July 19. Other flagship European sporting events, including the Euro 2020 soccer tournament, and French tennis tournament Rolland Garros, have also been postponed.
“It’s a little light that does the morale some good,” Madiot told Libération, Friday. “Even if that hope is distant, it’s what we need at this moment. If the race can take place on the planned dates, that means that we will be planing a return to normal after the lockdown.”
French officials and race organizers ASO have this week confirmed they are doing all they can to ensure the Tour goes ahead — even if it takes place in an unprecedented ‘behind closed doors’ format without roadside fans, advertising caravan, and start and finish ceremonies.
“Technically, it wouldn’t be straightforward for ASO, but there is television and it would be a symbol: the beginning of some things starting up again,” Madiot said.
With the race relying on funding via television rights rather than ticketed sales, and the possibility of a captive audience still in lockdown, such a stripped back format offers a viable option for both racing and revenues. The Tour de France is not just the biggest objective in many riders’ seasons, but also the centerpiece of many team sponsorship contracts. Deceuninck-Quick-Step boss Patrick Lefevere recently shot out the warning that without the Tour “the whole model of cycling can collapse.” Madiot echoed his rival’s concerns.
“For the economy of pro cycling and for the psychological wellbeing of the French people, it would be good to get back to the normal life of the country in July,” Madiot said.