PARIS (AFP) — The Tour de France faces a potential new delay after French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe called an official delay to all large events until after September 1.
“I want to clarify that the major sporting events, all events that bring together more than 5,000 participants, cannot be held before September,” Philippe said on Tuesday. Philippe’s comments were reported by AFP.
Philippe’s comments came during his address to the national assembly as the French government lays plans to open the country back up after several months of intense lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The announcement spelled the official end to the competition seasons for France’s two national soccer leagues, Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 football.
The decision also places the recently rescheduled Tour de France at odds with that plan. Recently it was announced that the Tour would run August 29 through September 20.
The announcement places other major races on uncertain footing, most notably the Critérium du Dauphiné, which was slated to be held in August. Other French races looking to return in August were the Tour de l’Ain, Bretagne Classic, and the French national road race championships, among others.
The potential delay comes amid the French government deciding to relax restrictions that have kept professional cyclists cooped up indoors during the pandemic.
The French prime minister confirmed that cyclists will be able to ride outside starting May 12. After nearly two months confined to their homes, the announcement comes as a salve for sidelined riders and teams in France.
“What counts most is that we’re able to train and return to competition in the most normal way possible,” said Groupama-FDJ boss Marc Madiot.
“Our riders will be able to train outdoors again, and that’s pretty good news for the world of cycling,” said Cofidis manager Cedric Vasseur. “Nothing’s won yet. It would be a mistake to think that everything is going to return to how it was before. But everyone will be able to return to their job, with a whole series of measures to protect staff and riders.”
The coronavirus pandemic has already had a major impact on French sports, and according to an estimate by the French Ministry of Sport, losing the six major professional sports (soccer, rugby, cycling, team handball, volleyball, and basketball) would amount to €1.4 billion in revenue losses.
Despite some speculation it might cause the delay of the Tour de France, set to begin August 29, Ag2r-La Mondiale manager Vincent Lavenu said the confirmation that training can resume is a good sign.
“There is an opening,” said Lavenu said. “This allows us to move forward step by step and this can change over time. We are lucky to be an outdoor sport, and we are not the sport that has the worst conditions.”