Six things to know about Tour de France 2020

France’s largest long-distance cycling event is going ahead despite the Covid-19 pandemic, albeit with some slight changes to the programme.

Six things to know about Tour de France 2020
The finish line of the annual cycling event Tour de France is on the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris. All photos: AFP

Every year, the world's top cyclists gather in France to race some 3,500 kilometres across hills and mountains in what is known as “the world’s most prestigious and most difficult bicycle race”.

This year, the coronavirus pandemic long had cycling enthusiasts spooked that the massive event would be cancelled for health reasons.

While organisers got the green light to go ahead, there will be some important changes to the traditional programme.

1. It is held later than usual 

Traditionally, Tour de France kicks off in July, but due to the health crisis the race was postponed to August 29th. It finishes in Paris on September 20th.

The delay was the result of a compromise between the organisers and the French government after a spat in March when Sports Minister Roxana Maracineaunu suggested that the Tour could go ahead without a public.

Organisers opposed the idea and in May they got the green light to go ahead as planned if they kept with general health rules.

READ ALSO: The vocabulary you need to understand French biking


Last year's winner, Egan Bernal from Columbia, embraced his girlfriend after crossing the finish line. This year's Tour will likely include less embracing and more social distancing.

2. There will be less people

“The party is less beautiful than we planned,” tour boss Christian Prudhomme said the day before the race was about to kick off.

Prudhomme was referring to the new rules on spacing out and limiting the number of spectators laid out earlier the same week after host city Nice and the rest of the countries saw coronavirus rates spike.

France has banned gatherings of more than 5,000 people, and organisers said they had “made the decision to let the race go ahead for nearly closed doors” in Nice and Paris, the start and end cities.

“The idea is to spread people out out along the route,” Prudhomme told France Bleu.

READ ALSO: Tour de France to go ahead 'almost behind closed doors'


In the smaller towns and cities there will be fewer people in general and the crowd control will likely be easier to manage.

“During the rest (of the race) it's possible to come and watch the Tour de France pass by. However no crowding. That's just good sense,” Prudhomme said.

The tour boss had previously said that 2020 “is certainly not the best year to collect autographs” and that “there will surely be no kisses or hugs during the official ceremonies.”

Tour de France is an annual highlight for both cycling enthusiasts and the French towns and cities that get to host the cyclists.

3. Spectators will be masked

Organisers decided that everyone coming to watch the race must wear a face mask on July 31st, so before spiralling coronavirus rates saw Nice and Paris introduce blanket rules on mask-wearing outside in their cities.

The rule goes for all along the race and not just in the towns and cities that have rules on mask-wearing out in public.

Tour de France's Prudhomme then said the new rule was in line with “common sense.”

“Everyone has (to wear) a mask,” Prudhomme told French media on July 31st when he made the announcement.

Sports Minister Maracineaunu told France Info that she had “insisted” that the organisers impose mask-wearing “even outside.”

MAP: Where in France are Covid-19 cases rising?


Organisers of this year's Tour de France did not want to see it go ahead without a physical audience, saying the spirit of the spectators was crucial for the race. 

4. The race will be kept inside France

Sometimes the race dips into neighbouring countries, but this year’s Tour de France will be kept inside French territory. 

Kicking off in Nice on August 29th, the cyclists will move from the south east to the south west, riding through a string of towns and cities – including Sisteron, Le Teil, Cazères, Loudenvielle, Pau and Laruns – before flying up to Ile d'Oléron, on the west coast in the middle of the country.

They then will head east, riding for hundreds of kilometres through cities like Poitiers, Chauvigny, Clermont Ferrand and Lyon, before snaking up towards the north east edge and towards finish line on the Champs-Elysées avenue in Paris.


5. The cyclists will be tested

A mobile laboratory will follow the cyclists throughout the race to test the athletes if they show any symptoms of having coronavirus. Organisers and staff will also be able to get tested at the lab.

6. There will be no 'Miss'

Tour de France organisers this year dropped one of the race's most famous – although contentious – customs of having two young women accompany the winner on the post-race podium.

One woman and one man will be joining this year's winner instead, breaking with an old tradition that has been subject to mounting criticism over the past years for being outdated and sexist.


French vocab

Le maillot jaune – yellow jersey (worn by the winner)

Le grand départ – the race start

Le départ – the start of each stage 

Le peloton – the group of cyclises (literally translated as 'the pack)

Member comments

  1. Yes, so well written …

    While organisers got the green LIGHT to go ahead, there will be some important changes to the traditional programme.

    “The party is less beautiful than we planned,” said tour boss Christian Prudhomme ??????said??? the day before the race was about to kick off.

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French doctors to stage more strikes in February

General practitioners in France are planning another industrial action that will see doctors' offices closed as they call for better investment in community healthcare.

French doctors to stage more strikes in February

Primary care doctors in France announced plans to strike again in February, after walkouts in December and over the Christmas-New Year holidays in early January.

The strike will take place on Tuesday, February 14th, and it comes just a few weeks ahead of the end-of-February deadline where France’s social security apparatus, Assurance Maladie, must reach an agreement to a structure for fees for GPs for the next five years.

Hospital doctors in France are largely barred from striking, but community healthcare workers such as GPs are self-employed and therefore can walk out. 

Their walk-out comes amid mass strike actions in February over the French government’s proposed pension reform. You can find updated information on pensions strikes HERE.

Previous industrial action led to widespread closures of primary care medical offices across the country. In December, strike action saw between 50 to 70 percent of doctor’s surgeries closed.

READ MORE: Urgent care: How to access non-emergency medical care in France

New concerns among GPs

According to reporting by La Depeche, in the upcoming strike in February primary care doctors will also be walking out over a new fear – the possibility of compulsory ‘on-call’ hours.

Currently, French GPs take on-call hours on a voluntary basis. Obligatory on-call time for primary care doctors was scrapped in the early 2000s after GPs mobilised against the requirement.

However, representatives from the Hospital Federation have called for it to be reinstated in order to help relieve emergency services.

Additionally, GPs are calling for Saturday shifts to considered as part of their standard working week, in order to allow for a two-day weekend.

Striking primary care doctors are more broadly calling for actions by the government and Assurance Maladie to help make the field more appealing to younger physicians entering the profession, as the country faces more medical deserts, and for working conditions to be improved.

Those walking out hope to see administrative procedures to be simplified and for the basic consultation fee – typically capped to €25 – to be doubled to €50.

In France patients pay the doctor upfront for a visit, and then a portion of the fee is reimbursed by the government via the carte vitale health card.