Le Tour de France, sans spectateurs?

Yesterday I read that the authorities in France are thinking about allowing the Tour de France to take place as planned in June/July – without spectators. Hard to believe, but could it be possible?

With the Giro already postponed, it would be a great statement in the face of the Coronavirus.

Of course, the French would love it to happen. Although football might be the country’s favourite sport, I think the tour is its favourite event and is closer to the country’s heart than any other (despite their last winner being Hinault in 1985).

I’ve seen estimates of 12m people travelling to watch it and a tv audience of 3.5 billion worldwide.

I was lucky enough to ride the Etape in 2013 and I’ve watched the race live on many occasions (London, Yorkshire, Colombiere twice, Bourg d’Oisans, Ramaz twice, Le Bettex, Domancy, Araches, Sallanches twice, Annecy, etc).

I love it – but I’ve nearly always been in a big and enthusiastic crowd which adds to the excitement and atmosphere, would it be the same without that? Although the tour doesn’t go up Alpe D’Huez this year, imagine it with an empty Dutch Corner and without the tunnel of faces lining the big climbs.

More importantly, would it be practical for the race to be run without crowds? It must be a huge drain on police resources in a normal year (although I expect that any gendarme who can ride a motorbike would kill for the job) – could they ensure that about 3000km of open roads are clear of spectators?

I suppose that if there were a few scattered spectators for the early stages, it could be argued that it wasn’t a huge risk – but wouldn’t that mean there were going to be more spectators encouraged to try their luck as the race went on? Even if it could be policed, I rather think the police might have better things to do, even in June/July.

I suppose it all depends on the view taken as to the likely behaviour of the French public – would they follow or ignore any directives that the race was happening ‘behind closed doors’ (but without the doors).

The tour is a huge event, even without the spectators. About 200 riders, mechanics, chefs, medical and related staff, police, marshals, tv and press coverage, (perhaps not the caravan as that is more for the spectators) and an apparently ridiculous number of minor officials. How could it be safe for them? I’ve seen a report that says there are 4,500 people on the tour each day – without counting spectators.

I love the idea of a peloton riding with 2m social-distancing gaps.

The idea is at least free of one potential drawback – it won’t suffer from a lack of ticket sales (other than for a few viewing stands the start and finish, perhaps). It’s a wonderful circus but I guess it’s funded by sponsors, tv and host towns – not the spectators.

I was planning to get to some of the tour as part of my annual cycling trip out to the alps but I’m sure that isn’t going to happen.

It’s virtually impossible to imagine the tour going ahead on this basis and watching on tv wouldn’t be the same – but I’d do it, willingly.

10 thoughts on “Le Tour de France, sans spectateurs?

  1. Donald Munro

    Interesting and thought provoking article, thank you. Assuming the medical and scientific advice suggests it is safe to hold the TdF, then it could be a joyous moment for millions with the message that the worst is behind us although we are still need to remain cautious, therefore no crowds.
    The numbers you quote are staggering, from the whole TdF entourage, to the spectators to the TV audience.
    Although it drew huge criticism for continuing with the event, I enjoyed watching the TV coverage of the recent Paris Nice race and I haven’t heard of any negative impact from the stages that were raced, which suggests to me the guidance they were receiving was accurate.
    Vive la tour!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Omil Post author

      Thank you. It would be a great statement if they could hold it – a bit of normality in abnormal times. It’s just dawned on me how weird it would look with a peloton riding 2m apart.


    1. The Omil Post author

      I agree – it would be a great statement but an outbreak in the peloton or the support teams and it would be a disaster: health, reputation, publicity etc. I see you are locking down further – all the best with it. Nice to see Conor McGregor running your response to the situation!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Julie

        Yes we are under stricter confinement- will be interesting to see how Irish people respond. Queues in the supermarkets again today. I got a socially distant run in though! I managed to avoid Conor McGregor thankfully – it’s stressful enough!!

        Liked by 1 person

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