'Critical' Tour de France goes ahead - NTT boss Ryder

Tour de France
The Tour de France is one of the last major sporting events of 2020 yet to be postponed or cancelled

The team principal of Africa's NTT Pro Cycling outfit, Doug Ryder, has told the BBC he believes it is "critical" for the sport that this year's Tour de France takes place.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc on sports schedules, Ryder explained how important it is for cycling's global showpiece event to happen this year.

It is currently scheduled for 27 June to 19 July, but other dates are being assessed.

"We're just hoping that come end of June, the Tour de France can still take place - it's critical for us as teams that it does happen this year," Ryder told BBC World Service's Newsday programme.

"With the Olympic Games moving out a year - which I think is the right decision because people have trained and prepared for so long, it's tough - but the Tour de France could potentially move out a few weeks and still happen in July.

"So we've got hope that it could still happen and May 15th is the date they've put out when they'll make the call. So let's hope it's the right call and let's hope we can still be racing around France in July," Ryder added.

Finance

UCI logo
Cycling's governing body, the UCI, is expecting to make a decision in May

The financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic is being felt across all sports - and Ryder said cycling is no different, calling this a "very tough time".

"In cycling, we are a hundred per cent reliant on sponsorship so cycling can actually take a big knock and potentially it could be in trouble," he said.

"And some teams are suffering quite a bit and have made some drastic decisions to try and keep and maintain their sustainability in the sport. So it is a very, very, very tough time at this point.

"We're very fortunate that with NTT and our major sponsors are trying to do the right thing and trying to support us in as many ways as they can. At the moment, we are waiting and there's lots of conversations with the UCI - the governing body of world cycling - to understand when the season will start because the longer it goes on, the harder it then is to give returns to our sponsors."

Charity

The NTT Pro Cycling team is linked to the charity Qhubeka, which provides bicycles to children across South Africa and beyond with the slogan "Bicycles change lives".

With South Africa in the middle of a lockdown as it tries to control the spread of coronavirus, the team has launched a campaign this week called "Be Moved"external-link which Ryder says he hopes will inspire many people forced to stay indoors.

"Ultimately we want people to take leadership of their day - get up every morning, be positive; be active, not passive," he said.

"Move forwards - even if it's in your apartment. Because if you get up in the morning and just by making your bed in the morning, doing things and getting things done, it does help you move forward, helps you get through the day, helps inspire you, helps to have some fresh thinking in your mind.

"It's just that positive outlook I guess because we will get through this and then we will be able to be outdoors, we will be able to get on our bicycles or move around and feel the cool air through our heads and just be focused and realise that the world is a better place."

Ryder says Quebekha is registering as an essential service in South Africa during the covid-19 crisis and is embarking on a project to mobilise people in areas such as healthcare by providing bicycles so that "more people get access and do more during this time of the pandemic."

"Our team creates hope and it creates hope to people who are sitting in their homes, in small towns where they feel that they're alone, and I think the message we put out was that we're in this together with you."