UCI president David Lappartient has proposed holding all of cycling’s five Monuments – the sport’s biggest five one-day races besides the world championships – in autumn this year, and says the season could be extended by a fortnight to accommodate them.
Four of those races – Italy’s Milan-San Remo, French race Paris-Roubaix, and the Belgian events the Tour of Flanders and Liege-Bastogne-Liege – were due to have been raced over the coming month, but all have now been cancelled with racing suspended until the end of April due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The fifth and final Monument of the year, Il Lombardia – held in the Italian region worst affected by the coronavirus outbreak – is scheduled for 10 October.
In an interview with France TV Sport, Lappartient said: “In the coming days and weeks, we’ll be working on remodelling the calendar, taking account of how the epidemic evolves of course.
“The first possibility is to reschedule the Monuments of cycling for the Autumn. To do that we can push the end of the season back by two weeks, that is until 31 October.
“In the meantime, we will also be looking at how to move the dates of certain races in order to make room for everyone.”
While there is a growing feeling that the Tokyo Olympics, due to run from 24 July to 9 August, will have to be pushed back, Lappartient – a member of the International Olympic Committee by virtue of his office – does not believe that will happen.
However, he acknowledged that if the Olympics were postponed until the Autumn, it would make it “impossible” to reschedule the Monuments for that period.
While officially racing is suspended until 30 April, events further ahead have also been postponed – notably, the Giro d’Italia, which had been due to start in Budapest on 9 May until the Hungarian government withdrew its backing earlier this month.
With much of the final week of the race due to have been played out in Lombardy ahead of the finish in Milan on 31 May, the race has now been postponed in its entirety.
Lappartient said it would be very difficult to hold the race as originally planned at a later point in the year, but confirmed that the UCI was working with organisers RCS Sport to find space for a shortened Giro d’Italia on a redesigned parcours, most likely in the Autumn.
“The Giro, along with the postponed Classics, is clearly one of our priorities and we are hopeful that it will run,” he said.
For now, the UCI president does not see the Tour de France, which is scheduled to start in Nice on 27 June, needing to be postponed.
He admitted that the enforced break for the sport across all disciplines would result in “an important but not dramatic” loss of revenue for the UCI, saying that the governing body, which has an annual budget of €40 million, would need to dip into its cash reserves.
He added that so far as any eventual cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics was concerned, the UCI would be cushioned by up to €10 million due to its participation in the IOC’s insurance policy.
Yesterday evening, Lappartient tweeted an open letter to fans of the sport. He wrote:
The coronavirus pandemic is affecting populations worldwide, and also the sport that we love. Whether you’re an elite athlete, weekend explorer or bicycle commuter, the current health situation is keeping is from our daily passion for cycling. In many countries, authorities are imposing major restrictions to protect the health of everybody, especially the vulnerable.
In these uncertain times, we should be inspired by the values of sport, in particular the values of cycling. We must be strong, show courage, and above all be ready to help each other.
I am convinced that our sport, in all its diversity, will soon be back in our lives. It will get through this ordeal as it has in previous crisis situations that have marked world history.
In all corners of the world, on the roads, in the mountains, in the velodromes and urban parks, cyclists will again be able to share their passion.
Until then, let’s remain united.
In a handwritten ps, he added: “Let’s remain united and strong for the good of our sport! My best wishes to you all.”
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