Disgraced cycling star Lance Armstrong has admitted he first used performance-enhancing drugs aged 21.

Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and handed a lifetime ban in 2012 following a United States Anti-Doping Agency investigation.

Having denied cheating repeatedly throughout his career, Armstrong belatedly admitted to using banned substances during a January 2013 interview with Oprah Winfrey.

The legitimacy of the American's achievements had long been the subject of conjecture after he came back from testicular cancer to dominate cycling's blue ribband event from 1999 to 2005.

However, in the new ESPN documentary LANCE, the 48-year-old confirmed his history with illegal drugs stretched back much further to his maiden campaign as a professional.

"In terms of crossing the line, to something that [you would be punished for] if you admitted it or tested positive, then that wouldn't have been until 21 years old," he told ESPN. "My first professional season.

"At that time in the sport it was cortisone, or cortisone pre-cursors, or drugs that stimulate your body's own production of cortisone. 

"It was just ingrained in the culture of the sport."

Armstrong is most infamous for his use of EPO and working alongside controversial doctor Michele Ferrari – describing the blood-boosting agent as "a whole other level" and "rocket fuel" compared to the "low-octane doping" of cortisone.

In the documentary, he also conceded to using human growth hormone (HGH) during 1996 and pondered whether this was a factor in his cancer diagnosis.

"You know, I don't know the answer to that," he said. "I don't want to say no, because I don't think that's right either. I don't know if it's yes or no, but I certainly wouldn't say no.

"The only thing I will tell you is, the only time in my life, that I ever did growth hormone, was the 1996 season.

"And so just in my head, I'm like, growth… growing hormones and cells, like… if anything good needs to be grown, it does. But wouldn't it also make sense that if anything bad, is there, that it too would grow?" 

Following his return to professional cycling in 1998, Armstrong insisted he had no concerns over the potential adverse effects of a cancer survivor using EPO.

"In many ways - and this is not going to be a popular answer - EPO is a safe drug," he said. "Assuming certain things, assuming [it is] taken properly, taken under the guidance of a medical professional, taken in conservative amounts.

"There are far worse things you can put in your body."

Armstrong believes his considerable fall from grace and resulting absence from the public eye might have actually brought benefits, particularly for his family.

"The last five years has really caused me to pause and try to understand, not just myself but what this story meant to other people, what this story meant to the world," he said.

"And you know, that's a heavy thing to think about. I never knew the story was as big as it was. I knew it was big, but I didn't know it was that big.

"If I was competing today, I could tell you who my peers would be. My peers would be Michael Phelps, LeBron James, and so I see where they are… and so only now do I realise, 'that's where you were'.

"That's where I was. I really don't miss that. And I think, if I'd stayed there, it wouldn't have been good for my family." 

*** LANCE is available on ESPN Player throughout the UK, Europe and Africa from May 25th***

This year's Vuelta a Espana will no longer hold two of its stages in Portugal due to the coronavirus crisis.

Stages 15 and 16 were originally due to take place across the cities of Porto, Matosinhos and Viseu but will now be held in Spain as part of an alternative route.

The Vuelta announced on Saturday the decision had been taken "due to the exceptional situation caused by the COVID-19 crisis".

It added it had proven impossible to guarantee "optimal conditions for the smooth passage of the race in the country". 

"The municipalities of Porto, Matosinhos and Viseu, in agreement with Unipublic, organisers of La Vuelta, have decided to cancel the passage of La Vuelta 20 in Portugal," read a statement on the race's official website.

Last month, plans to hold the first three stages of the race in the Netherlands were scrapped.

The start date was also postponed from August 14 to October 20 to accommodate a two-month delay to the Tour de France, meaning the Vuelta will overlap with the rescheduled Giro d'Italia.

Organisers said there will be no more alterations after the decision not to travel through Portugal.

The only section of the race outside of Spain that remains comes in stage nine, which finishes atop the Col du Tourmalet in France.

Simon Yates believes a number of cycling teams will be under intense pressure when the season resumes.

There has been no racing since the Paris-Nice in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the 2020 season is slated to get back under way in August.

The revised schedule will see the three Grand Tours, five Monuments and the UCI Road World Championships all take place in just over three months.

The Road World Championships begin on the day the Tour de France is set to end, while the Giro d'Italia overlaps with a shortened Vuelta a Espana. In addition, the Milan-San Remo is the only Monument to not coincide with a Grand Tour.

Mitchelton-Scott rider Yates, who won the Vuelta in 2018, believes smaller teams will find life difficult with their resources potentially spread so thin.

"A lot of races survive year by year, so they need to run. A lot of teams survive year by year, with their exposure to races. So I think we can't really control that from that side of view," Yates told Stats Perform.

"You have one team who don't need to ride this race because they have no interest in that country and then you have another team where that will be one of their most important races of the year.

"It's very hard to juggle the season in a way that fits everybody. I wouldn't like the task of coming up with a full season in three months or whatever it is.

"It's obviously very difficult to organise, but I think for the welfare of the riders, it's just going to be a very intense period for everybody – not just riders, I think you've got to look at the staff and the rest of the team.

"If we're running three or four races at exactly the same time on the same day it really puts a lot of stress on the whole organisation and on the whole team.

"You'll need staff going to this race, buses going to this race and they'll be driving thousands and thousands of kilometres between races. Full gas for those three months, throughout the whole time.

"Us personally as a team, we're quite a small team, we're only low 20s, a lot of other squads are 30 plus, up to 30. We'll be racing a lot more than other teams, who will be able to spread out their roster a lot more, whereas we'll be doing more races at the same time.

"I just think it's going to be stressful for a lot of teams."

Yates believes the circumstances could decrease the quality of the competition, although with the window to race so small he acknowledged the drama could increase.

"I think [it could lower the quality], or it could be the opposite because now everybody is going to come out flying," he said.

"Everyone will come out ready to race because there's no chances to build into this season anymore. This season is three months, that's what it is, so it can go either way really.

"It can either be a lot of riders are spread out and less competition or it could be really focused and everybody is raring to go."

Tom Dumoulin would not have an issue with contesting the Tour de France in the absence of fans.

The Tour had initially been scheduled to start on June 27 but was postponed when the French government extended a ban on mass gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Organisers pushed the grand depart back to August 29, though sports minister Roxana Maracineanu said on Tuesday there was no guarantee it would still be able to go ahead.

Major sporting events have been banned in France until September, leading to suggestions the Tour could take place without any road-side spectators.

Dumoulin, the 2017 Giro d'Italia winner, would not be deterred by such a situation if it means the sport can return.

"I'm of course not used to doing a Tour de France without the public, so I wouldn't know how that would be," Dumoulin told Stats Perform.

"But I can imagine that it feels strange and feels different, but once you're out on the road it's just a battle between you and your competitors.

"Racing-wise it will not really change and I will be just as motivated as ever to try and beat my competitors to try and win it.

"I can't really see big problems there, but of course I would like to have a big public there and a lot of people but it's probably just not happening.

"When the situation is like we can race, but we can race without fans, then of course we should do it and make the most of it. It will make for a good show on TV then."

The UCI's re-jigged schedule will see the Road World Championships immediately follow the Tour, with the Giro commencing two weeks later.

The Giro will also overlap with a shortened Vuelta a Espana, with four of the five Monuments taking place at the same time as one of the Grand Tours.

Dumoulin said: "I didn't look at it in detail with all the exact dates and everything, but in general I think it's a good idea to let the biggest races be on the calendar within a timeframe of less than three months.

"So it makes it very difficult and very hard for all organisers and for some races. It's definitely challenging, but it's the best we can do in the given situation. So yes, I'm definitely up for this planning."

The Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana will overlap in October this year after the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) revealed its revised 2020 schedule on Tuesday.

Racing was halted in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the suspension last month extended until August 1 for the UCI's WorldTour events, including the three Grand Tours.

But following a period of consultation with representatives of riders, organisers and teams, the UCI has laid out fresh plans for the conclusion of the season, which will see 25 events crammed into a little over three months.

The plans are subject to current social and travel restrictions being lifted, but the season is due to resume on August 1 with Strade Bianche in Tuscany, Italy, before finishing on November 8 with the conclusion of La Vuelta, which is now set to begin on October 20.

Spain's Grand Tour - initially set to start in mid-August - had been shortened by a weekend at the request of organisers, after the city of Utrecht in Netherlands declared it would not be able to meet conditions for the Grand Depart.

However, even with La Vuelta operating with a reduced schedule, it will overlap – as had been expected – with the Giro d'Italia, which is to run from October 3-25.

The Tour de France had already been confirmed to start on August 29 and finish on September 20.

UCI president David Lappartient said: "We have drawn up a solid, attractive and varied new calendar that is as realistic and coherent as possible. This has been achieved as early as was practicable and in line with information available today [Tuesday] concerning the evolution of the pandemic.

"Riders, teams and organisers now have the dates they need to anticipate the resumption of racing on August 1. This is a very important step that the entire cycling community, financially impacted by the pandemic, has been waiting for to move forward."

He added: "We will continue to move forward together towards the resumption of the season, nevertheless with the reminder that the health of riders and all concerned parties is still the overriding priority, and that the recommencement of our activities will remain dependent on the evolution of the world health situation."

The Women's WorldTour is also set to recommence on August 1, with its new schedule including 18 events.

Four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome says cycling is "in a great place now" but still encounters "negativity" due to past doping offences in the sport.

Lance Armstrong, who won seven straight Tour titles from 1999, was the subject of the biggest doping scandal in cycling's history after allegations throughout his career.

The American was eventually stripped of his honours in October 2012 and admitted to using banned substances the following year.

Other high-profile names were also found guilty in the same era, and Team INEOS star Froome acknowledges the sport has had to work hard to turn its reputation around.

In an interview on Instagram, former England cricketer Kevin Pietersen referred to Armstrong as he asked Froome about a period of widespread doping in cycling.

Froome replied: "We're still having to justify ourselves. It's 15 years on at least, and we're still talking about it. It did a lot of damage.

"That era has damaged the sport to a great extent, but I do really believe that the sport has turned the page.

"I don't think that I could have won the Tour de France four times if it hadn't changed. I think the sport is in a great place now.

"Of course, it's challenging with the negativity and always having to answer the same questions year in, year out to the sceptics who won't believe any performance.

"But at the same time, what can we do? We just get on with it and we know that what we're doing it right. We've got nothing to hide."

Comparing performances between modern-day riders and past dopers, Froome added: "Obviously we know what was happening 15 or so years ago. I'd say that the majority of the field were using something to go faster.

"The sport is 100 times cleaner, yet we're going faster up climbs than they were then. The best way to explain it is that as a sport we've evolved so much in terms of technology and nutrition and ways of training.

"As athletes, we're probably better than they were 15 years ago. Having said that, I don't think that our ability to recover is the way it was back then.

"Using whatever it was to manipulate their blood back then would have meant that they could have done that day in, day out.

"Now we'll have one massive stage and you can visibly see that there's a change in pace for the next two to three days. The whole group needs to go slower."

The official Vuelta a Espana departure, as well as two further stages in the 2020 race, will not now be held in the Netherlands due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Utrecht was due to host the opening of this year's race on August 14, but the Dutch government last week banned all sporting events until the start of September.

Stages two and three of the Vuelta, scheduled to start in 's-Hertogenbosch and Breda respectively, have also been cancelled, with no possibility of rescheduling.

There has been talk of the Grand Tour event being pushed back as late as November, with the UCI - cycling's governing body - expected to announced a revised calendar next month.

Vuelta organisers on Wednesday confirmed the race will not get begin until after the UCI Road World Championships, due to be held between September 20-27.

La Vuelta Holanda director Martijn van Hulsteijn said: "It is clear that there is great disappointment in Utrecht, Breda, 's-Hertogenbosch and the provinces of Utrecht and Noord-Brabant.

"We were ready to organise a fantastic event in the weekend of the 14th, 15th and 16th of August.

"Since we heard of the change in the UCI calendar, we have discussed with all parties to find out if the start in the autumn would be possible, but it turned out to be too difficult of an assignment.

"Moving three stages, on three days, through 34 municipalities with start and finish places in various places turned out to be a bridge too far.

"For example, we did not have all the needed infrastructures at our disposal. In addition, a lot of road works were carried out around the 34 participating municipalities in the autumn. The impact would be too great.

"Even if you leave the desirability and uncertainty in corona time out of the discussion."

Chris Froome's burning ambition to add to his haul of seven Grand Tour titles will not be diminished by his injury setback, according to Marcel Kittel.

Froome has been the dominant force of cycling for most of the last decade, with four Tour de France victories underlining his brilliance.

However, the Briton broke a leg, his elbow and suffered fractured ribs after crashing into a wall in a training ride at the Criterium du Dauphine in June.

Doubts have been cast over whether the 34-year-old will be able to return to his best form, and Kittel suggested competition from within Team INEOS could make life even tougher for Froome.

"If you look at Chris Froome as an individual athlete, he has already proven his work ethic over the last few years," Kittel, a stage winner in each of the Grand Tours, told Stats Perform.

"How much time and hard work he puts into his training. Despite his fall, his ambitions are still clear to him.

"One question is just how much he has recovered from his fall and injury. He himself says that it looks good. The other question is how to resolve this within Team INEOS with the additional riders of Egan Bernal and Geraint Thomas.

"So how do you go into a Tour with these riders? I imagine that it is very difficult even if the athletes don't play with open cards, to support each other in form or in a team when other teams are strong and attack."

This year's Tour has been pushed back to August 29 after France president Emmanuel Macron banned mass public gatherings until mid-July.

Kittel, who doubts if the race will be able to commence on that date, believes Froome will be among the contenders whenever the event takes place, but said his legacy is secure regardless.

"In the end, Froome will be on par with [Eddy] Merckx," said Kittel.

"He's won all the big tours. He has won the Tour de France four times so far. Maybe he will succeed a fifth time. There are not many riders who have achieved that."

Marcel Kittel remains sceptical about the chances of the Tour de France taking place this year due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Tour was originally scheduled to start on June 27 but was moved back to August 29 after France president Emmanuel Macron banned mass public gatherings until mid-July.

Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak there have been over 150,000 confirmed cases in France, leading to nearly 20,000 deaths.

Kittel, a 14-time stage winner on the Tour, is still doubtful about the prospect of the race going ahead due to potential logistical issues with no end to the crisis in sight.

He told Stats Perform: "The decision to postpone the Tour is not one to be criticised generally, because it was reasonable to take the time and find a good decision. Due to COVID-19, we must be aware that the new date of the Tour is anything but safe.

"The decision on whether it is justifiable for all participants and the spectators must be made in that moment. I am quite sceptical about this, because I think it is really hard due to the current circumstances to organise such a big event, even if you take precautions.

"The Tour is a massive event, travelling through a complete country with a lot of people involved.

"I hope the right decision will be reached on this issue. I would appreciate it if the Tour could take place, but only with the right conditions"

Kittel added: "If the decision is made by politicians and experts that the Tour can be held in a secure way, then it is something I can rely on. But, right now, I don't see any chance that the Tour can take place in autumn, because a lot of big events have also been cancelled.

"But nobody knows what the situation will look like in six months. We can only wait and see how it will actually develop."

Kittel said that trying to stage the Tour without any fans in attendance "doesn't make any sense at all".

The Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana are now set to be held after the UCI Road World Championships, which takes place in late September.

Kittel does not think finishing the season with three Grand Tours in close succession is fair on either the riders or event organisers, particularly when they take place in the European countries that have been hit hardest by the virus.

"Three Grand Tours in a row is absolutely unrealistic for me, for the organisers but also for the athletes," he said.

"Unless every race is started with different riders – that's something that could work out, although it is also pretty hard for everyone.

"Aside from this, the three Grand Tours are set to take place in France, Italy and Spain - three countries which have been highly affected by COVID-19. I think this idea is not very realistic."

French cyclist Nans Peters has sounded a warning that drug cheats could try to take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic by juicing up in lockdown.

Peters made a major breakthrough with a maiden grand tour stage win on last year's Giro d'Italia, as well as finishing third in a Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games test event.

The 26-year-old rides for the AG2R La Mondiale team and says his last test stemming from the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) ADAMS whereabouts system took place on October 7 last year.

He reported having a cortisolemia check carried out by the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC) union in March at the Paris-Nice race, but pointed out only certain teams belong and submit to testing by that body.

Like most sports, professional cycling has shut down during the COVID-19 crisis, with the Tour de France shunted back by two months to an August 29 start.

"What does it mean? Two options," wrote Peters on his personal website, considering the few doping checks he has been required to take.

"Either I have a profile that is not at all suspicious, which means I'm rarely tested, this is in effect the case since starting as a professional, where I was only checked three to four times a year.

"Or, and I'm very afraid of this, in this period of confinement there is no control!!!!!

"Let's not be naive, there is still doping, fortunately much less than in the years 1995 - 2005, but there will always be!

"Are cheaters free at the moment? It is as if we were told, 'Do you want to cheat? Well go for it! It's time, do what you want, take what you want, train like crazy at home now, you have until May 11 to get your engine going and crush everything when you return to competition'."

The Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation, which carries out testing in professional cycling, said in March it intended to be "continuing activities to protect clean cycling".

It said it would be following advice of WADA, which has said testing during the coronavirus period "will continue only where appropriate and possible".

Peters added: "I'm afraid for my sport, for my passion and for my end of the season facing mules!"

Maximilian Schachmann believes it is vitally important for the rescheduled Tour de France to go ahead, as long as it is safe for the athletes.

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in the postponement or cancellation of events across the sporting calendar.

An extension of the ban on large gatherings in France until mid-July meant cycling's biggest Grand Tour event would have to be pushed back or scrapped and, on Wednesday, the UCI confirmed new dates had been set.

Le Tour will now take place between August 29 and September 20, a decision welcomed by Schachmann, who won his first stage race at the shortened Paris-Nice event last month.

"I am happy that the decision was made earlier than it had been planned," Schachmann told Stats Perform.

"The decision was [not] about to be made until 15th of May. Now it was made about one month earlier than expected, which is really good for all athletes.

"We all have a better plan for our future now. I also think the decision was quite reasonable, because it was quite utopian to believe that the Tour de France could start at the end of June. In my opinion, this plan is the most realistic one.

"It would be a heavy hit for professional sports, if the tour was cancelled. Cycling is a commercial sport like football or tennis.

"I am a professional sportsman as well, so I want to do my job if it is possible. As I already said, I am always happy if the Tour is about to take place, but only if all aspects like the health of the athletes, have been clarified.

"If this can't be guaranteed you would have to think about cancelling the Tour because you can't postpone it any further. If we have reached a level by the end of August, where events like the tour can take place again, I am really happy to take part in this event."

Schachmann also acknowledged that the famous event may have to take place without spectators present if coronavirus infection rates across Europe rise again in the coming months.

"To be honest, I did not think about this possibility by now," the German added.

"Within the last weeks we have seen how fast things can change. The infections are declining in almost every country. Now we have to see if the numbers of infections are about to rise again if the actions of containment are relaxed.

"This development will be decisive for if the Tour will take place with spectators or without."

Geraint Thomas is "super-excited" about the prospect of the Tour de France taking place this year - even if it means other major races may take a hit.

Britain's 2018 winner of Le Tour said Wednesday's announcement of the new August 29 to September 20 dates would help riders who were unsure about when they might return to action.

Thomas, who finished second to Egan Bernal last year, suggested every effort must be made to ensure the Tour de France goes ahead, above all other events.

The race was originally scheduled to take place between June 27 and July 19, but that became unrealistic because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Restrictions on movement may have been lifted by August, allowing sport to return to some degree of normality.

"Hopefully those dates can go ahead, and I'm super-excited about that. The Tour is the pinnacle of the sport," Thomas told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"If that went ahead, it'd be great for the riders and the teams, and for the fans as well - something for everybody to look forward to.

"I've missed sport a lot - it's a good way to switch off from the real world. If it goes ahead, it'd also show we're through such a horrible, terrible time for everyone.

"The biggest thing is having a date we can work towards. Before, we just didn't know, obviously nobody knew.

"[I was] trying to maintain a bit of fitness and not put on too much weight, but in the bad of your mind you're [thinking], 'What am I doing this for?'.

"It's so much easier now you have a fixed target and a fixed goal to build towards."

The Road World Championships in Aigle-Martigny, Switzerland, are still scheduled to take place between September 20 and 27, and world governing body the UCI plans to fit in the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana after that.

It means there will be a hectic spell of activity for the world's top road cyclists, and Thomas suggested some level of compromise might be required to accommodate everything.

One possibility may be cutting down the Giro and Vuelta to shorter events, although there may be reluctance to make such a move with the Grand Tour events.

Thomas said: "Once we officially know we can go racing again, I think talks can really start between UCI and the race organisers and the teams and we can come up with a decent plan.

"The Tour, in my eyes, needs to take priority because that's the main event in cycling, and then hopefully we can fit in some other races around it.

"If they are compromised slightly, I don't think they would mind too much if they still go ahead."

Thomas was taking part in a charity ride at home on Wednesday, raising money for the NHS Charities Together organisation by pedalling on a static bike for 12 hours, which he will repeat on Thursday and Friday.

The Tour de France has been postponed and will take place between August 29 and September 20 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the UCI has confirmed.

The status of cycling's most famous Grand Tour race had been unclear as the outbreak of COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc to the sporting calendar.

An extension of a ban on large-scale events in France until mid-July led to a postponement of the Tour, which was originally scheduled for between June 27 and July 19.

New dates have now been set and the original route will remain the same.

A statement on the Tour's official website read: "Following the president's address on Monday evening, where large-scale events were banned in France until mid-July as a part of the fight against the spread of COVID-19, the organisers of the Tour de France, in agreement with the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), have decided to postpone the Tour de France to Saturday August 29 to Sunday September 20, 2020.

"Initially scheduled to take place from June 27 to July 19, the Tour de France will follow the same route, with no changes, from Nice to Paris. Over the last few weeks, there has been constant communication between riders, teams, the organisers as well as other relevant third parties all with the support of the UCI, who are responsible for arranging a new global cycling schedule, in which the Tour de France takes pride of place.

"The organisers of the Tour de France are in regular contact with and have reached agreement with all of the different parties involved, from the local communities to the public authorities."

The UCI posted a "broad lines of the revised 2020 UCI International Road Calendar" on its official website.

It outlined the 2020 UCI Road World Championships in Aigle-Martigny (Switzerland) are still scheduled to take place between September 20 and 27, with no changes to the programme.

The Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana will take place after the UCI Worlds, the UCI said.

The statement added: "The most prestigious one-day road races (the Monuments), ie Milano-Sanremo (Italy), the Tour des Flandres (Belgium), Paris-Roubaix (France), Liege-Bastogne-Liege (Belgium) and Il Lombardia (Italy), will all take place this season, at dates still to be defined."

UCI president David Lappartient said: "I would like to pay tribute to the representatives of the organisers, teams and riders for their collaboration and their commitment in these difficult times. We still have work to do to finalise the establishment of an entirely revised 2020 UCI International Calendar given the coronavirus pandemic that has shaken the world, but a first very important step has been taken.

"Likewise, we have established a framework that will allow the fundamental rights of teams' riders and staff to be preserved, while enabling the measures necessary for the survival of these teams to be taken. Together, we will manage to get through this crisis and rebuild cycling post-COVID-19."

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."

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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