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Like many, Geraint Thomas had set the Tour de France as the center of his season. However, in the wake of the coronavirus crisis and uncertainty over the fate of the 2020 Tour — if not the whole season — the Ineos rider has been left kicking his heels in lockdown in Wales.
“Obviously I’d love to have another crack [at winning the Tour],” Thomas, 33, said, Monday. “I do feel like I’m in the shape of my life now. These are my years. But it is what it is. There are more important things in life.”
Earlier this year, Team Ineos had confirmed the Welsh winner of the 2018 Tour as co-leader for the 2020 race, alongside defending champion Egan Bernal. While four-time winner Chris Froome had made clear his ambition to win a fifth Tour in 2020, his Ineos team had so far held back from confirming his status within the squad due to go to France this year.
With the whole season still under threat as race organizers watch and wait for developments in the ever-intensifying coronavirus pandemic, the peloton doesn’t know when or where it will race again. And with that comes the difficulty of managing training loads. June races Tour de Suisse and Criterium du Dauphine are still standing in the 2020 calendar, but with just eight weeks to go, nobody knows if they will go ahead.
“The hardest thing is just the unknown,” Thomas told the Telegraph. “If you knew that the Tour de Suisse was going to be your next race, you could just work towards that; devise a training program, and do it. But at the moment it’s all up in the air…. I just want to race my bike again.”
Last week, Tour de France organizers ASO and French sports ministers were discussing the possibility of a stripped-back race without roadside fans, in a model similar to this month’s Paris-Nice. However, like Frenchmen Julian Alaphilippe and Warren Barguil, Thomas struggles to imagine racing in France without the fans, and questions the possibility of locking down the 3,500-kilometer Tour route.
“It wouldn’t be the Tour without the fans,” Thomas said. “It would be a lot harder to keep [fans] away from the Tour than it was at Paris-Nice.”
While Thomas has his heart set on a second yellow jersey this year, he admits that the race taking place in any form is more important than the result itself. The Tour is the powerhouse of cycling’s economic model, with sponsorship contracts hinging on race attendance, teams earning appearance fees, and self-employed staffers being recruited to support riders.
Teams have already been indicating warnings over their finances in the wake of the cancelation or postponement of the first half of the season. Lotto-Soudal riders have voluntarily reduced their wages, and yesterday, reports indicated that Team Astana have requested riders take a pay cut. Deceuninck-Quick-Step boss Patrick Lefevere has revealed his team has already lost half a million euros as the race calendar got torn to shreds, and suggested that if “there is no Tour de France, the whole model of cycling can collapse.”
Thomas was of similar opinion. “There are 20-odd teams, and companies invested in those teams, and if it went, there [might be] quite a few people left unemployed,” he said. “So while the result itself doesn’t matter, the event does because there are a lot of livelihoods wrapped up in it – not just teams but the sponsors.”
ASO has indicated that the final fate of the 2020 Tour de France will be confirmed by mid-May.