Despite the delayed start date, it is very likely that the 107th edition of the tour will follow the same route as originally planned. It will start in Nice and end on the Champs-Elysées in Paris.
There had been uncertainty around whether the race would go ahead due to the Covid-19 crisis, but as borders and public events begin to reopen, there is no suggestion that the race risks cancellation thus far.
However, there is still uncertainty cpncerning the precise way it will go ahead, depending on the changing health situation.
Two scenarios are being considered: firstly, a generally normal race; or secondly, one that will be largely constrained in the event that the Covid-19 epidemic restarts in France.
New safety measures this year
It has already been confirmed that the riders will have as little contact with the public as possible, and it is unclear how much of the race route will be open to spectators. Riders will not be permitted to mix with the public, nor give autographs or allow “selfies”.
The cars, extra vehicles and floats that usually surround the peloton will still be there, but there will be nearly 40% fewer vehicles than usual.
Normally, around 10 million people come out to line the route of the Tour, but this year it is not clear how many will support the riders given the health rules and especially as much of the event will take place after schools have already started a new academic year (“la Rentrée”).
Similarly, the many supporters who travel to France from further afield may struggle to fly internationally, depending on the flight and travel restrictions still in place.
The media and press will also be kept at arm’s length, and will not be permitted to surround the riders with microphones for pre and post-race interviews as they would otherwise do in “normal” years.
Similarly, during the podium ceremonies on-stage, the riders and prize-givers will not be permitted to kiss each other (“faire la bise”), as they would normally.
This will also be the first time that the Tour will have both male and female podium hosts.
Enthusiasm and caution
Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour de France, told news source France 2: “What is sure is that this will not be the best year to get an autograph with a champion, that much is clear.
“On the flip side, this will be the biggest cycling competition in the world, and there will be - I am certain - much enthusiasm, but of course, all within the constraints of the health rules that will be in place at the end of August and the start of September.”
Announcements around the exact arrangements of the race have been intentionally vague, Mr Prudhomme said, to avoid the organisers having to make amendments and contradictory plans.
He told sports news site l’Équipe: “We immediately agreed on the fact that we had to say as little as possible because we could not afford to be contradicted the next day by events that we could not control. We could not go from postponement to postponement, the logistics of the Tour do not allow it. We only had one shot!”
And while most of the route is set to stay the same as originally planned, many of the stages have seen their dates moved from prize mid-summer dates, to later, less-significant, September days.
Jean-Pierre Barbier, president of Isère (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes), had previously been proud of the region’s prized Bastille Day (July 14) arrival for stage 16, but this has now been postponed to September 15.
Despite this, Mr Barbier remains enthusiastic about the importance of the Tour.
He told riding magazine Cycling Weekly: “We must admit that we had dreamed a lot about this July 14; we could scarcely have had a better date.
“But I was reassured when [Tour director] Christian Prudhomme said very early on that the Tour could not be run behind closed doors. It was unimaginable.
“Even in September, we will make it the most beautiful party possible. Our economy needs it. People need it.”
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