Thomas De Gendt: no Tour de France would be disastrous for cycling

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Thomas De Gendt, of Lotto Soudal, said that organizing this year’s Tour de France in one form or another could prove essential in order to keep the interest of the team’s sponsors.

While the tour could take place on new dates, the last suggestion being that it could take place from the last week of July to mid-August, nothing is certain then that the coronavirus still holds a large part of the world. – and sports – locked out.

“I hope the Tour de France takes place because many sponsors – not just ours – have calculated their budgets based on the visibility of the Tour, which is still broadcast on television in a hundred countries”, De Gendt Told Het Nieuwsblad Tuesday.

“If the Tour is canceled, I think we will see a lot of teams quitting at the end of the year because their sponsorship will disappear. Things could get very dark for cycling.

“No Tour de France would be disastrous for cycling,” he continued. “Even if the Tour is quite insignificant when it comes to the coronavirus crisis, for us, the riders, it is our whole world.

“I don’t see why there couldn’t be people on the side of the road during the Tour. When they are in small groups, like in Paris-Nice, and are scattered around, it is not dangerous at all, especially if you only allow the people who had to be there at the start and at the arrival [i.e. not the public]. The experience would be completely different, but it would be better to have a modified Tour than not to have one at all. “

De Gendt’s Lotto Soudal team was one where riders and staff agreed to cut wages as the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect the sport.

“No one likes to give up money,” said De Gendt. “You signed up for your salary and you are entitled to it, but our main sponsors – Lotto, Soudal, Caps, Ridley – lose a large part of their income.

“If we just stick to our contracts, there will simply be no more money at the end of the year and the team will be bankrupt. Something had to be done – otherwise we would not have had a team in the last three months of the season. “

“I see eRacing as a real solution”

The alternative during this period without real racing was an increase in indoor training and running on systems like Zwift and BKool. A “Virtual Tour of Flanders” – dubbed the Lockdown Edition of the Tour of Flanders – took place on the latter system over the weekend, and De Gendt was one of the many high-level riders who participated, along with Greg Van Avermaet of the CCC team coming away with the win.

“In the absence of real races, I see eRacing as a real solution,” said De Gendt, “especially to give to sponsors and [race] organizers a little visibility. Once the peloton returns to normal, I don’t think many pros will still participate in these virtual races, but perhaps it will still exist as a separate branch of cycling.

“We are all road cyclists – we know how to react in the peloton and what to do if someone suddenly swerves in front of us. When you are on the home trainer, this aspect disappears completely. It’s pure energy production. But maybe I will still participate in the virtual Tour de Suisse at the end of the month. “

In the meantime, De Gendt has said he will try to stay in shape and will not fall back into “winter mode”.

“Otherwise, you stack the pounds,” he said. “But nobody will participate in preparation races for the Tour, and nobody will participate in high altitude training camps. Everyone will be in the same boat.

“Riders from Italy, France and Spain are not allowed to train on the road at the moment, but I don’t think you will be able to see the difference between who was able to ride outside this month and that didn’t, “said De Gendt. “The Tour is still very far. In a month, the runners from these other countries should be released and will have two months to prepare. It’s enough time to get in shape for the Tour.

“Also, unlike the Belgians, they can ride in the mountains, so they might even have the advantage. “

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