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August start date for 2020 Tour de France.

Byline: IAN PARKER ECHO Reporter

THE Tour de France has been postponed by two months, due to the coronavirus pandemic, as world governing body the UCI unveiled the first details of its plans to reschedule the road cycling calendar.

The 107th edition of the Tour was due to begin in Nice on June 27 and conclude in Paris on July 19, but the opening stage will now take place on August 29, with the finale on September 20.

Four-time Tour winner Chris Froome, who has made returning to the race the focal point of his comeback from careerthreatening injuries suffered last summer, welcomed the news via Twitter as "some light at the end of the tunnel".

Following several weeks of discussions with local authorities due to host stages, the race will take place on the planned route with no changes, beginning on the French Riviera before heading for the Pyrenees and with the battle for yellow reaching a climax in the Alps.

Postponement of the race became inevitable on Monday, when French President Emmanuel Macron announced there could be no mass gatherings in the country until mid-July.

Organiser ASO said: "We would like to thank all of the cycling stakeholders, Tour partners, its broadcasters in 190 countries, as well as all the authorities concerned by the Tour de France for their responsiveness and support.

"With them, we hope that the 2020 edition will help to turn the page on the difficult days that we are currently experiencing around the world." The fate of the Tour was seen as critical for the economics of cycling, considering teams' reliance on sponsorship, which is, in turn, dependent on the exposure brought by the world's biggest race.

The UCI statement read: "Holding this event in the best conditions possible is judged essential, given its central place in cycling's economy and its exposure, in particular for the teams that benefit on this occasion from unparalleled visibility."

The new dates for the Tour came as part of a wider plan for the road cycling season announced by the UCI.

The suspension of all racing was extended until July 1, and until August 1 for the WorldTour events - which have been on hiatus since Paris-Nice ended one day early, on March 14.

The Giro d'Italia, which had been due to begin on May 9 in Budapest, will now be scheduled to take place after the Tour but before the Vuelta a Espana, which will move back from its planned dates in August and September.

The new dates for the Tour create a clash with UCI's own Road World Championships, due to begin in Aigle-Martigny, Switzerland, on September 20, but the world governing body said there would be no change to that event, which is due to begin with the men's elite time trial on the Sunday.

That will leave the likes of Dutchman Tom Dumoulin - who finished second in both the 2018 Tour and the road world time trial that year - with a decision to make on their priorities.

The new Tour dates also clash with the Tour of Britain, currently scheduled for September 6-13. Organisers of the British race, used to seeing their event take place at the same time as the Vuelta, are relaxed about the clash under these unique circumstances, and would only move their own event if public health concerns warranted doing so.

The UCI said it was also working to reschedule the Monuments - the five biggest one-day races on the calendar - but had no finalised dates at present.

With regards to the Women's World Tour, the world governing body said an update would be issued no later than May 15. No date has been set for La Course, the one-day women's race which takes place as part of the Tour de France, but organisers said it would take place on a date to be determined.

UCI president David Lappartient said: "I would like to pay tribute to the representatives of the organisers, teams and riders for their collaboration and their commitment in these difficult times.

"We still have work to do to finalise the establishment of an entirely revised 2020 UCI International Calendar, given the coronavirus pandemic that has shaken the world, but a first very important step has been taken today.

"Likewise, we have established a framework that will allow the fundamental rights of teams' riders and staff to be preserved, while enabling the measures necessary for the survival of these teams to be taken. Together, we will manage to get through this crisis and rebuild cycling post-Covid-19."

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Tour de France cyclists in action last year Picture: PETE GODING
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:IAN PARKER ECHO Reporter
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Apr 16, 2020
Words:770
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