Sir Dave Brailsford, general manager of British cycling outfit Team Ineos, has called for the sport to modernise and end its reliance on the Tour de France after the coronavirus pandemic.
The Tour de France, the biggest of cycling’s three grand tours, was originally scheduled to run from 27th June until 19th July, but has been rescheduled to start on 29th August as a result of the global health crisis.
Cycling is heavily dependent on sponsorship and the Tour de France accounts for 70 to 80 per cent of brand visibility for team sponsors owing to the event’s global television coverage, according to the cyclingnews.com.
International Cycling Union (UCI) president David Lappartient said in March that cancelling the grand tours would be a “disaster” for the sport and the global governing body has since described staging the Tour de France this year as “essential” due to “its central place in cycling’s economy”.
“If one event should happen this year, we would all choose for it to be the Tour,” Brailsford told BBC Radio 4. “One of the challenges cycling has is that revenue is totally dependent on sponsors and different sponsors are in different businesses and some are more effective than others in the current climate.”
The UCI has already been forced to furlough staff and cut the salaries of its senior employees as a result of losing much of its annual calendar.
Brailsford believes the challenges faced due to the coronavirus outbreak should encourage cycling to find new ways to make revenues and spark reform within the sport.
“Everyone would see the benefits of having a more robust structure,” he added to BBC Radio 4. “It would allow people to plan for the medium-to-long term, rather than planning short term and, just for some, survival on a short-term basis – that would be a very big game-changer. Modernising the business model going forward would be wise for everybody.”
Medical experts have warned that holding the Tour in August would still be unsafe. Devi Sridhar, the chair of Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, described the plan as “a recipe for disaster”, telling cyclingnews.com that “the wise thing” would be to “cancel for this year”.
Brailsford also acknowledged that the Tour can only go ahead if it is safe for the public and riders.
“There are risks involved and hundreds of people lining the road in close proximity is not the best idea,” he said.
The Tour de France is due to kick off the UCI’s revised 2020 calendar, with the Giro d’Italia and La Vuelta, the other two grand tours, taking place after September’s UCI Road World Championships. Cycling’s most prestigious one-day monument races – Milan-San Remo, Liege-Bastonge-Liege, Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix – are also due to be held on dates yet to be decided.