Quintana primed for 2020 Tour de France after wildcard

By Sports Desk January 07, 2020

Nairo Quintana is in line to compete in this year's Tour de France after Arkea-Samsic were given a wildcard spot. 

The Colombian is a two-time runner-up at the Tour, most recently in 2015, and has won both the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a Espana.

Quintana moved to the France-based Arkea-Samsic team from Movistar ahead of the new season, having spent eight years with his previous employers.

The 29-year-old's new team includes Frenchman Warren Barguil, who won the mountain classification at the 2017 Tour, and three-time points classification runner-up Andre Greipel.

This year's edition begins in Nice on June 27, concluding with the processional final stage in Paris on July 19, with Team INEOS' Egan Bernal out to defend his title.

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  • Coronavirus: Cancellara casts doubt over Grand Tour scheduling Coronavirus: Cancellara casts doubt over Grand Tour scheduling

    Fabian Cancellara has questioned whether the Tour de France will be able to start a month later than scheduled amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    Tour organisers are reportedly considering moving the beginning of the most prestigious Grand Tour race back from June 27 to July 25.

    Staging the event without crowds had been talked of, but that option is said to have been ruled out.

    Retired four-time world time trial champion Cancellara believes putting the Grand Depart in Nice back by just a month may be unrealistic.

    Asked about a Tour with no spectators, the Swiss told Stats Perform: "For sure, the riders want to race and people at home want to watch a bike race.

    "But you still have people there that want to see the riders on the road. I think the Tour de France is the last big sporting event that hasn't been cancelled or postponed, but they've been having a lot of discussion.

    "What will come? They have potential possibilities – I think the start of end of July and then finish off August 16. But in the end, no one knows what is in two months and what is good that day.

    "They said they will wait until the middle of May, which is still a month to go. In one month, a lot of things can happen, a lot of new regulations might come."

    He added: "But even if they say they can do it, what's with the other bike riders? They are home. They have certain regulations. Can people travel? Do they allow them to travel?

    "Cycling is not just a French race of French people on the Tour de France. Cycling is a global sport. So, people from Spain, Portugal, people from Italy, from Austria, Germany, from Belgium, from Switzerland, Holland...

    "From Denmark, from Norway, cycling is from everywhere. That's why I'm quite curious how this is going to be managed."

    It remains to be seen if the Giro d'Italia will take place this year after it was postponed last month, but Cancellara thinks it is too early to make a decision on the Vuelta a Espana, which is due to get under way on August 14.

    The double Olympic gold medallist said: "To cancel it, I honestly think it's too early. I think they have to work on some solutions with a Plan A and B or C.

    "And the Giro, of course, if you look at the calendar, if from August things will go on slightly, then I don't know where is the space. Who will make the space? So, what will be is we have the regulation routes, the political aspect.

    "And we have to see the economy situation towards all those races because there is a calendar and you just can't cancel or [make] too many changes off the calendar because all the other events that are being held in August, September, October, they have fixed dates.

    "They've been working for it. And just the big one comes and want to have space. It's not so easy. That's why there are a lot of discussions for sure at the UCI in Switzerland with the organisers of the Giro.

    "And like every cycling event, everyone tries to find the best possibilities to go on. So, it's a quite complex situation."

  • Coronavirus: Tour de France could be viable without crowds, says Mitchelton-Scott boss Coronavirus: Tour de France could be viable without crowds, says Mitchelton-Scott boss

    Mitchelton-Scott sport director Matt White believes it could be viable for the Tour de France to go ahead as scheduled without spectators, though he thinks putting the race back may be the best option.

    The most prestigious Grand Tour event on the calendar is due to be staged from June 27 to July 19, but this year's race is in doubt due to the coronavirus crisis.

    French minister for youth and sport Roxana Maracineanu last week talked of the possibility that the Tour could be given the green light to be held with no fans along the route, depending on the situation at the time.

    White, who revealed that approximately 85 to 90 per cent of his team are currently in lockdown, said racing without crowds is not out of the question – but the safety of those involved is paramount.

    He said: "The Tour de France without crowds would be weird. But, a lot of our early season races and smaller races don't have big crowds. It would feel strange for the riders, to be competing at our showcase event with minimal people, but it would work.

    "Even if there was only the 2,000 people travelling, it would be a positive for the French economy, and obviously the TV audience would be huge because people are looking for things to watch and once sport does recommence, I am sure it would rate highly.

    "It's viable and we could do it, but the bigger question is how do we move that circus around France in a safe way. At the end of the day it has to be safe for the French public, safe for everyone in that travelling group and achievable for the French resources."

    White also feels there must be competitive cycling prior to the Tour de France, as returning to action and going straight into such a huge race "doesn't work for the riders".

    "The team and all teams support what is best for the general population,” White added.

    “I am pretty sure by the month of July things might have calmed down a considerable amount, but will they have calmed down enough to safely support a couple of thousand people, coming together from different parts of Europe and the world, for the Tour de France?

    "We're not talking about four or five venues; we are a travelling circus. We're talking about 2,000 people; teams, media, logistics and movement between 20 hotels over 25 days. Safety has to remain the priority.

    "By May, I think we're going to have to see the virus nearly out in most of Europe for ASO [Amaury Sport Organisation] to consider it running on the dates that it is currently set for. By then you hope athletes are also on the road. If athletes aren't on the road by May, there's no way you can run competition in June.

    "We have to have some competition before the Tour de France.  You can't have the Tour de France as the first race. That doesn't work for the riders, simple as that.

    "The next four or five weeks is crucial, that the virus infections come down to a very low level in Europe. At the moment we're not seeing that, and I would think that as it stands at the moment, it would be pretty hard to run the Tour de France at the current dates starting at the end of June.

    "But now with the Olympics off the cards, it does leave a window for later in July and even early August. Maybe that's the most viable option to run the Tour de France in full, and I'm sure that's what the ASO want to do – they want to run a three-week Tour de France."

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