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'A ray of hope' - Eurosport pundits react to Tour de France move and a proposed new cycling calendar

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Bradley Wiggins, Matt Stephens, Orla Chennaoui and Brian Smith

Image credit: Eurosport

ByEurosport
15/04/2020 at 12:13 | Updated 15/04/2020 at 16:02

Eurosport cycling experts Orla Chennaoui, Matt Stephens, Brian Smith, Carlton Kirby and Rob Hatch react to the news of the rescheduled Tour de France and a potentially packed Autumn cycling calendar.

"It seems almost unbelievable to think about racing at the current time, but if the calendar goes ahead as planned, we’re going to have a packed, remarkable season ahead," said Eurosport cycling presenter Orla Chennaoui, responding to Wednesday's UCI statement that confirmed the Tour de France will now be held in September, followed by the World Championships, Giro d'Italia, Monuments and Vuelta Espana.

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Those sentiments were reiterated by pundit Matt Stephens, who said:

My initial reaction to the scheduling is that firstly it’s a glimmer of hope isn’t it, that’s the first thing we can say. Secondly, for me personally and I think for a lot of other people, I think it’s going to be tempered with the caveat that this is just subject to restrictions being lifted from a government perspective as well. But it is a ray of hope. We can’t shy away from that.

Commentator Rob Hatch added:

"At what is a strange time, it’s nice to have something to look forward to. Yes, we know that everything is conditional right now, and the races will only happen if it’s safe for them to.

There has been and still will be speculation as to how the crisis will unfold, but the way the world is, none of us know how things will pan out. In that respect, the organisers have to try and plan for what comes next, even though we know that right now, the world’s attention is elsewhere.

Pundit and former World Tour Director Brian Smith also believes it is important that the sport adjusts to the post-coronavirus world when it does return.

"This will come as a huge relief to all involved in cycling, from team staff to riders and sponsors etc," he said. "However, we need to make sure there are certain guidelines to protect lives.

This terrible disease needs to be treated with the utmost respect and the Tour may go ahead as we’ve never seen it before. We will witness something unique in cycling, but we will need to respect everyone who has been touched by this virus and protect the vulnerable. Cycling was always going to come back and some of the uncertainty has now been lifted. Let’s look forward to the future and the hope it brings.

Thomas excited that Tour de France is going ahead this year

00:00:32

The UCI's announcement and a possible new cycling calendar for 2020 raises almost as many questions as answers.

Can the Vuelta really run into November? When will the Classics fit into such a small window. And what about all the other World Tour races that will be impacted by this change?

Answers to those questions will gradually reveal themselves, but if the UCI's plan goes ahead then the Autumn of 2020 looks set to be one of the most packed few months of cycling in the sport's history. Speaking on that, Chennaoui said:

We can forget about everything we think we know about these races. With the year we’ve had, the unusual training, the unprecedented build-up, whatever happens will be the most unpredictable we could imagine. We have to trust that races can go ahead safely, first and foremost. So long as public safety comes first, we’re set for the most remarkable couple of months of racing, possibly of our lifetimes.

The rearranged calendar would mean some money coming into a sport that sees many teams functioning on a financial tightrope at the best of times, and Hatch says that would be one benefit of rearranging the calendar in this way:

The Tour de France is vital to the economic survival of the sport at the top level, and doing their best to plan cycling’s biggest events, means organisers are trying to give sponsors, riders, staff, media and fans the biggest sense of certainty possible in the most unstable times most of us have all lived through.

Stephens echoed that sentiment, adding: "If this does go ahead it’s going to be an exceptionally packed back end of the year; for teams, for broadcasters, for everybody.

It would be good if we could salvage something from this season for the economy of the sport, otherwise I think professional cycling could be in a penniless state.

All World Tour racing is cancelled up until August 1, leaving a window for riders to have another pre-season, albeit with the restrictions of social distancing and the other impacts of coronavirus.

And there will also be an interesting tactical element to how teams approach the new-look season, with so many races squeezed into such a short period of time.

"If this does go ahead there will be some time for riders to prepare for the races later in the year, but it’s certainly going to be a packed schedule and it’s going to be interesting to see which teams prioritise what, especially if there’s an overlap," Stephens said. "So it’s a bit of good news, but we’ve got a lot to get through before the flag drops on any Grand Tour this year.

I’ll also be interested to see how travel restrictions affect any participants riding the Tour as well, any Grand Tour, because certain countries might not actually lift restrictions. But that’s one to discuss at a later date.

For more information on the new Tour de France dates and how it impacts cycling, click HERE.

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