The Tour de France has the green light from French government officials to race its new starting date in late August if health conditions permit.
Multiple sources confirmed to VeloNews that Tour organizer ASO has informed WorldTour teams to be ready to race on August 29.
Earlier this week, France’s Prime Minister barred large public gatherings such as concerts or football matches with crowds numbering more than 5,000 people until September 1, as France starts to unwind some of its COVID-19 restrictions.
That raised new doubts about the Tour’s viability, rescheduled to start on France’s Cote d’Azur on August 29.
France’s sports minister later clarified the ruling, saying that the Tour organization would need to come up with mitigation plans on how to control crowds as well as protect fans and riders alike.
Multiple sources confirmed Friday that ASO was told to move ahead with plans for its newly scheduled date of August 29. ASO officials then contacted teams to let them know to be ready to race, three sources have confirmed. Tour officials declined to comment when contacted by VeloNews.
That tacit approval opens the door for the peloton to move closer to a revival of racing and fuels optimism that competition will return before the season is out.
Other sources confirmed Friday to VeloNews that Tour rosters will not be reduced to allow more teams to start. All three grand tours will be contested with eight-rider rosters, and there will be no additional wild-card invitations, sources said. That would complicate hopes by budding superstar Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) to race the Tour.
The latest developments come as cycling’s key stakeholders are trying to salvage something for the second half of the 2020 calendar.
A final decision on the Tour and other racing will ultimately depend on how coronavirus conditions are later this summer. France has been in lockdown conditions since late March, with nearly 25,000 victims, slightly behind Italy, Spain, and Great Britain.
Officials across Europe are starting to ease restrictions as the number of cases begins to drop for the first time in weeks. In Spain, the public will be allowed to go outside for exercise for the first time since March 15, and professional cyclists living there are expected to be allowed to train outdoors.
Since Paris-Nice concluded in mid-March, dozens of races have been canceled. Several organizers say they will not try to reschedule their events in 2020, while the major organizers, such as ASO, the Giro d’Italia’s RCS Sport, and Flanders Classics, are all pressing that their events be rescheduled from August into late November.
This week, the UCI postponed the release of a new-look calendar, in part to give everyone more time to work out final details.
Teams and riders alike are keen to return to racing. Several WorldTour teams have been forced to reduce wages, lay off staffers, or defer payments due to the unprecedented race stoppage.
NTT Pro Cycling sport manager Bjarne Riis said Thursday teams are prepared to race well into autumn if needed.
“I believe there is space in this year’s calendar for all three grand tours,” Riis said Thursday. “It will be hectic, but it is important that we can race again as soon as possible. It is particularly important that the Tour de France be held.”