The coronavirus has hit France hard, but not hard enough for it to cancel two of the largest premier sporting events in the world — the Tour de France and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The Tour de France has been postponed from from June 27-July 19 to August 29- September 20, the International Cycling Union said this week.
While the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race has been rescheduled to September 18-19 from June 13-14, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest announced.
French president Emmanuel Macron said that no public event would take place in the country until mid-July as part of measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak, CGTN.com reported.
The race’s director Christian Prudhomme said staging the Tour de France this year despite the pandemic was vital for road cycling.
“Everyone in the world of cycling supported the idea, even those who usually don’t like us. Some teams said they would have to close down without the Tour in 2020.”
Sponsors usually invest in cycling teams for the broad TV exposure and the Tour de France is one of the world’s most watched events, after the Summer Olympics and the football World Cup, the report said.
With no racing before July, cycling teams and sponsors have been dramatically hit financially by the coronavirus, which has infected over 2 million people worldwide and brought the world of sport to a standstill.
Meanwhile, four-time winner Chris Froome is thrilled to see the Tour would not face cancellation this year. “The news many of us have been waiting for. Some light at the end of the tunnel,” he tweeted.
The Tour route will remain 99% unchanged with a Grand Depart from Nice and the traditional final parade on Paris’s Champs-Elysees.
The UCI also added that Italy’s Giro and Spain’s Vuelta would follow the Tour in a revised calendar.
The Le Mans 24 Hours dates back to 1923 and has been held every year since 1949 following a ten-year hiatus during and after the Second World War, ESPN reported.
Over the last two years the World Endurance Championship calendar has been rescheduled around it to make it the final race of the season while retaining Le Mans’ traditional June date.
“Postponing the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2020, originally scheduled for 13-14th June, is the appropriate solution in face of the exceptional health circumstances that we are all going through today,” Pierre Fillon, President of the ACO, said in a statement. “It goes without saying that we will make every effort to ensure the safety and quality of our events.
“First of all, I want to ask everyone to take no risk for themselves, their families and others. Today it is a question of stopping the spread of this virus. I would also like to spare warm thoughts for all the medical personnel working to protect our health.
“We are more than ever working as one team together with our competitors, partners, fans, media, medical services, organization teams and marshals.”
The 2020 race is due to be the last held under the current LMP1 regulations before new hypercar rules are introduced for 2021.
How the news will impact on the rest of the World Endurance Championship will be communicated in due course, officials said.