The French Minister of Youth and Sports, Roxana Maracineanu, has told the French press that the staging of this year's Tour de France could potentially take place behind closed doors, without any fans in attendance.
However, according to L'Equipe, Maracineanu warned that although different scenarios are being discussed with Tour organisers ASO, it's still too early to make any firm decisions for the race – set to run from June 27-July 19 – while the coronavirus pandemic remains everyone's first concern.
"The economic model of the Tour de France is not based on ticketing but on TV rights," Maracineanu told French radio network France Bleu on Wednesday.
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"During this period of confinement, everyone is being very careful and aware," she said. "Everyone understands that they have to stay at home, therefore watching television rather than attending any live events. As a result, it wouldn't be too difficult to have to have to watch the Tour on television [rather than from the roadside]."
Maracineanu had also talked to the media on Monday about her hopes that an event of such national importance as the Tour could still go ahead in some form. While it was subsequently announced this week that the Olympic Games would be postponed, and with the football European Championships already having been postponed until 2021, and, in cycling, May's Giro d'Italia postponed, many would have expected this year's Tour to go the same way.
However, on Wednesday, former UCI president Brian Cookson suggested to Cyclingnews that the Tour – and the sport's other two Grand Tours, the Giro and the Vuelta a España – could be reduced to two weeks in length, rather than their normal three weeks, in order to squeeze them in to a much shorter 2020 season due to all the race postponements. A shortened Tour could take place in late July or in August, he proposed.
Maracineanu later reiterated on Twitter that it was still too soon to make any firm decisions as to what might happen with regards to the Tour.
"The Tour is a monument of sport," she wrote. "It's still too early to decide. There's a time for everything. Right now, we have a more urgent fight. Let's put all our effort into climbing that mountain before tackling the next one."