Tour of Britain director Mick Bennett not expecting Tour de France to go ahead

By Ian Parker, PA
PA Media: Sport

Tour of Britain director Mick Bennett has admitted he would be “totally staggered” if the Tour de France is able to go ahead this summer amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Tour, originally scheduled to run from June 27 to July 19, has been pushed back by two months and given a new start date of August 29, but doubts persist over the race after the French Government imposed new restrictions on mass gatherings until the beginning of September.

Bennett remains optimistic his own race, scheduled for September 6-13, can go ahead even if it overlaps with the French event as the logistics of organising a shorter, smaller race are less complicated, but he admitted it was impossible to make any firm predictions.

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“I would be totally staggered if the Tour de France goes ahead,” Bennett told the PA news agency.

“Staggered, but in a positive way if it happens. It’s three weeks long and a global event, so much more so than the Tour of Britain, in terms of the logistics, number of people on the race and the travel involved with people coming from across the world and areas with different levels of restrictions.”

The UCI is due to publish a revised calendar for the 2020 WorldTour season on Tuesday, with only the Tour de France having been given new dates so far.

Priority has been given to the three Grand Tours – the Tour, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana – as well as the one-day Monuments.

Non-WorldTour races like the Tour of Britain will not be listed on that calendar but Bennett hopes this year’s race, scheduled to begin in Penzance and travel the entire distance of the nation up to Aberdeen across eight stages, can still happen.

“We have to hope that for us in the UK if conditions allow, perhaps a shorter or smaller race with fewer spectators, less complex logistics, is more possible, but we don’t have a crystal ball, and really to a large extent it is probably in the hands of the French and British Governments,” Bennett added.

“The Tour de France, Giro, World Championships are all hugely important for cycling as a sport, and if they go ahead then there is hope for all cycling events.

“But it is so hard to make any predictions right now without looking foolish, especially as things will vary so much from country to country going forwards.”

Tour of Britain organisers Sweetspot also stage the Women’s Tour, a WorldTour event which was due to take place from June 8-13.

They made the decision to postpone the race as early as March 13 and have subsequently informed the UCI they will not seek alternative dates in 2020, choosing instead to use this year’s planned route in 2021.

Although it is still four months until it is due to take place, the fate of the Tour of Britain could be known in the next few weeks. Bennett said it was vital for organisers to be able to do site visits soon in order to step up preparations, but that is not possible until the lockdown ends.

“Probably by the middle of June we need to get boots on the ground,” he said. “It would be a massive blow to us as a company but also the country (if it doesn’t go ahead).

“We don’t have another event that is going to cover Penzance to Aberdeen, the full length of the country, and for the general public to lose that would be a big blow.

“I think it would be greatly missed, and I’d hope so as well as it would illustrate where we are with the Tour of Britain as part of the fabric of major events in the country.”

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