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Coronavirus and cycling: When will the Grand Tours happen; how would an autumn season work?

Coronavirus and cycling: When will the Grand Tours happen; how would an autumn season work?

19/03/2020 at 08:28Updated 26/03/2020 at 11:33

The future of the 2020 editions of the Tour de France and Vuelta Espana are in doubt, while the Giro d’Italia and Spring Classic Monuments (Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Milan-San Remo and Tour of Flanders) will all need to be rescheduled due to the covid-19 pandemic. Eurosport analyse what could happen to the cycling calendar and assess the intentions of UCI chief David Lappartient.

What is happening with the Tour de France?

As things stand the Tour de France is currently set to go ahead as scheduled, with organisers Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) making no comment about the potential for a postponement.

And UCI boss Lappartient also is sticking with the party line, telling France TV Sport:

" As for the Tour de France, for now, nothing has changed."

However, hosting a travelling festival of cycling across a nation struggling with a pandemic would be a far from ideal situation, even if the worst of the impact is in the past come July. The strain that such an event would place on local services – particularly police and medical resources – means that a decision to continue with the Tour should only be taken if France’s infrastructure is really able to cope.

The same is true of La Vuelta, which is also currently due to go ahead as scheduled.

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What has been cancelled?

All cycling races up to the end of April have been postponed, including all four Monuments from the Spring Classics - Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Milan-San Remo and Tour of Flanders.

The Giro d’Italia, which was due to start on May 9, has also been postponed.

This list of cancelled and postponed races is highly likely to grow.

The 2019 Giro d'Italia

The 2019 Giro d'ItaliaEurosport

When could races be rescheduled?

With limited space in the summer season, the only feasible option to fit the races into 2020 would be to extend the racing calendar later into the autumn.

Fitting all of the postponed races into an expanded October calendar would be tricky to say the least, but Lappartient says that UCI’s current plan is to attempt to add the Giro and potentially also the Monuments into this period if possible:

" We're working with the organiser RCS to find a place for the Giro, undoubtedly in autumn. The possible avenues are a localised Giro, obviously redesigned too, and perhaps not of the same length. But the Giro, together with the postponed Classics, obviously forms part of our priorities, and we have high hopes of seeing it raced."

Would an autumn season work?

The last scheduled race of the World Tour season is currently set as being the Tour of Guangxi in China from October 15-20.

But the UCI would shift existing races around to free up October if possible, or a series of back-to-back Monuments. Lappartient explained:

" In the days and weeks that come, we’re going to work on remodelling the calendar, depending on the evolution of the epidemic, of course. The first possibility is to re-fix the Monuments of cycling for the autumn. For that we have the possibility of pushing the end of the season out by two weeks, to October 31. We’ll also study how to shift certain race dates in order to make space for everybody."

What would an autumn Giro d’Italia look like?

The UCI are reportedly in discussions with RCS Sport about a truncated Giro, potentially stripped to two weeks and dropping the Grande Partenza in Hungary (with that arrangement moved to a different year) plus also cutting stages 4, 5 and 6 in Sicily.

Giro 2020 - The original route

That would leave a route through the main body of Italy, culminating in the north during the second week.

Such an arrangement would have complications, not least with the weather in October in the mountain ranges of the north, and no official word has been made over such a race at this stage.

What future complications could there be?

Any October extension to the cycling calendar would be scuppered by a rescheduled Olympics. On that issue Lappartient says he “does not believe that will happen”.

A number of other races scheduled for post-Giro are under threat and could also be moved. However, the biggest one-day races and Grand Tours will take precedent in rescheduling plans, and a decision over the other events must be made at least three weeks prior to the start date.

The Criterium du Dauphine and Tour de Suisse would be two such races under threat.

"The decision to organise a stage race like this or not must be taken three weeks in advance, the time necessary to get the (road) security conditions in place," Lappartient has said.

" One of the questions, for example, is whether the organisation will be able to arrange the policing necessary to guarantee the security of the route, as these are resources that are obviously mobilised elsewhere at the moment. In addition, a decision must be taken and authorisation received from the police three weeks in advance. That would mean a decision in early May for the Dauphiné, which is starting on May 30."

Such logic would also be used for postponing the Tour de France, but in such an uncertain time across the world that UCI position is subject to change at short notice.