Cycling

Fears for Tour de France as Paris-Roubaix postponed

TDF (File)
TDF (File)

The Paris-Roubaix cycling race, a major event on the French sports calendar, was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday as organisers held back on changing dates for the Tour de France.

The one-day Paris-Roubaix race, contested in mud or dust over old cobbled mining roads in mid-April, is known as 'the Hell of the North' and is watched as avidly by the French public as the Tour.

Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), who run the Tour and Paris-Roubaix, also announced the postponement of two huge cycling dates in Belgium.

The epic Liege-Bastogne-Liege on 26 April which is run through narrow winding Ardennes forest lanes, and the equally popular Fleche Wallonne on 22 April, both fell victim to the virus outbreak.

There was further bad news for Belgian cycling fans when the 5 April Tour of Flanders, only previously cancelled during World War I, was also postponed on Tuesday.

Another ASO race in Britain's Tour de Yorkshire scheduled for 30 April to 3 May, with male and female versions, has been called off too.

Paris-Roubaix has been raced since 1896 and has only been previously cancelled during wartime.

In a flurry of virus-hit cycling races, ASO stubbornly staged the Paris-Nice one-week tour that ended a day earlier than scheduled last Saturday.

ASO chief Christian Prudhomme suggested earlier this week he hoped the Tour could go ahead as scheduled for 27 June to 19 July.

"We hope that this situation, for the good of the country above all, will be resolved before then," Prudhomme told AFP.

France went into full lockdown on Tuesday and ASO are maintaining an upbeat wait-and-see attitude.

"It's still more than a hundred days until the start of the Tour de France. The hunger for the race will be immense once activities are resumed," Prudhomme said.

The 2020 Tour de France is due to start in the south coast city of Nice, with a course that rarely strays far from the mountains in a hotly anticipated format.

If the race does go ahead there are major questions also over rider fitness.

Top form rider so far this year Nairo Quintana was put into 15-days of self-quarantine so he can be with his family after winning the final stage of Paris-Nice on Saturday.

Cycling was one of the first sports hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak with the abandonment of the UAE Tour in late February after two Italian mechanics tested positive for COVID-19.

There was a sense of shock when the caravan of riders, support staff and media were put under quarantine, where some, including Colombian sprinter Fernando Gaviria, remain.

Then came the cancellation of Italy's coast-to-coast Tirreno-Adriatico, with the nation's key one-day Milan-San Remo race also being called off for only the fourth time in over a century.

Last Friday the Giro d'Italia - scheduled for 9-31 May - was postponed after Hungary announced it would not host the opening three stages in and around Budapest as planned.

Since then the Tour de Suisse, Tour of the Basque Country and Tour of Romandy have all been postponed too.

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