PARIS (Reuters) - The Giro d’Italia will start on Oct. 3 and the Spanish Vuelta will be held from Oct. 20, the International Cycling Union (UCI) said on Tuesday, as it published a heavily revised calendar in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
Four of the top five one-day races will also be held in October, making for a frantic month of cycling following the coronavirus pandemic that has brought almost all of world sport to a halt since March.
The World Tour season will officially begin on Aug. 1 with the Strade Bianche one-day race and end with the Tour of Lombardy on Oct. 31, with the three grand tours of France, Italy and Spain sandwiched in between - although the Vuelta won’t be completed until Nov. 8.
The UCI said on its website here the new calendar would give different types of riders the most opportunities for races within a short time frame.
The sport’s governing body is now working on health rules for teams, riders and race organisers, and all cycling will remain subject to the progress of the coronavirus, president David Lappartient told reporters.
“We are monitoring the situation across the globe very closely and our project could change depending on the pandemic,” he told a video news conference.
The UCI last month said the Tour de France would be held from Aug. 29-Sept. 20 after the governing body suspended elite racing until Aug. 1.
“Not having a Tour de France would be a disaster. If it cannot happen in September, I think we would be in a very, very difficult situation regarding the schedule.”
With almost 200 riders packed in the peloton at times and many thousands of fans lining the roads, cycling faces a unique challenge to keep its participants and supporters safe.
“There are a lot of questions. We are working on measures to impose on the organisers, on the teams and the riders,” said Lappartient. “It’s a big piece of work.”
The Giro will be held over 23 days ending on Oct. 25, while the Vuelta will finish on Nov. 8 after the first three stages initially set to be held in the Netherlands were cut from the programme.
With many races postponed already, the UCI, organisers and teams were faced with a conundrum after saying the three grand tours and five top one-day races would all go ahead.
Milan-San Remo will now be held on Aug. 8, while Liege-Bastogne-Liege is set for Oct. 4, the Tour des Flandres on Oct. 18, Paris-Roubaix on Oct. 25 and the Tour of Lombardy on Oct. 31.
Paris-Roubaix, the ‘Queen of the classics’, will hold a women’s race for the first time on the same day as the men’s, setting off ahead of them, its organisers Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) said.
The start of the Vuelta will now overlap with the final stages of the Giro, but the UCI said it had little choice.
“The Vuelta goes through the Pyrenees, and in mid-November it would have been too risky because of the weather and the lack of light,” Lappartient explained.
Should the season not be completed, cycling could be “in a catastrophic situation,” the Frenchman added, although the sport does not rely on TV rights to survive.
“Our sport is based on individual sponsors and that is what could save our teams,” he said.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Ken Ferris