PARIS — The Tour de France has new dates, and it will be followed by cycling’s two other major races.
Because of restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic, the iconic race around France will now start on Aug. 29 and finish on Sept. 20. The Giro d’Italia and the Spanish Vuelta, cycling’s two other Grand Tours, will take place after the French race.
The International Cycling Union announced the Tour’s new dates on Wednesday after consulting with race organizer Amaury Sport Organisation. The race was originally scheduled to start on June 27 in Nice.
It’s the first time since the end of World War II that the race is not starting in July.
“Holding this event in the best conditions possible is judged essential given its central place in cycling’s economy and its exposure,” the UCI said in a statement. “In particular for the teams that benefit on this occasion from unparalleled visibility.”
The race’s finish on the Champs-Élysées will coincide with the start of the rescheduled French Open tennis tournament a short distance away on the clay courts of Roland Garros in western Paris.
French cyclist Julian Alaphilippe, who led last year’s race for long spells before fading to finish fifth, welcomed the news.
“It’s great news and a great joy. To be honest, I was starting to lose a bit of hope,” he told France 2 television channel. “It’s a great source of motivation for the riders and it should give the French a lot of pleasure … Whatever happens it will be a great celebration.”
The UCI also announced that the dates for the world championships will stay from Sept. 20-27. They will be followed by the Giro, initially scheduled for May but previously called off, and the Spanish Vuelta, which is also owned by ASO and was to run from Aug. 14-Sept. 6.
No official dates were yet given for those two races.
The UCI said all the prestigious one-day road classics, including the Paris-Roubaix over the cobblestones, the Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Milan–San Remo, will go ahead. Dates were not given but the suspension of all races on the UCI calendar was extended one month to Aug. 1.
Postponing the initial Tour dates became inevitable when French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Monday that all public events with large crowds would be canceled until at least mid-July.
It is unclear, however, if the two-month delay will be enough. Macron extended France’s lockdown to at least May 11, and the race would send hundreds of riders and team staff from around the world traveling across the country for three weeks.
Borders would have to be open, too, so racers like last year’s winner — Colombian rider Egan Bernal — can travel to France.
Wednesday’s decisions were taken following a video conference meeting organized by the UCI, with all the principal representatives of professional road cycling consulted.
UCI president David Lappartient praised them “for their collaboration and their commitment in these difficult times.”
“We still have work to do to finalize the establishment of an entirely revised 2020 UCI International Calendar given the coronavirus pandemic that has shaken the world,” Lappartient said, “but a first very important step has been taken today.”
AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this report.
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