• Egan Bernal greets the crowds in the yellow jersey after Stage 20 of the 2019 Tour de France (Getty)Source: Getty
If there is no Tour de France in 2020, men's pro cycling could collapse as sponsors feel the pressure from the coronavirus, Deceuninck-Quickstep team boss Patrick Lefevere said, his concerns also supported by EF Pro Cycling's Jonathan Vaughters.
Cycling Central

Cyclingnews, Het Nieuwsblad
23 Mar 2020 - 3:09 PM  UPDATED 23 Mar 2020 - 3:23 PM

As companies who sponsor cycling teams deal with the economic burdens of the coronavirus, they will look to make savings on marketing, Lefevere explained in his column for Flemish newspaper Het Nieuwsblad on the weekend. 

And without exposure on one of the world's biggest sporting stages, their affiliation with the sport will be the first to go. 

“I realise that in that big story, cycling is just a footnote, but I'm a cycling team manager, so I'm also worried. 

"But the spring, the most important window for my team, is completely gone. At Quick-Step we have certainly built up historical credit, but Deceuninck only sponsors for the second year. We have won eighty-three races so far, so I hope they will think about that too."

If the Tour is cancelled "then we are talking about a total disaster."

“But it would be downright stupid not to take this into account," he said. "My maxim is to always start from a best-case and a worst-case. In the first case we race again in June, in the worst case, the season is over.

"I may be a pessimist, but who would have dared to predict three weeks ago that half of Europe would suddenly be under house arrest?”

“Organiser ASO can take a beating, the teams can't. If there is no Tour de France, the whole model of cycling can collapse.”

Economic concerns were of course not first on Lefevere's mind as he daily worried about his riders and staff. 

"I am scared someone will call me to say they have become ill. With Davide Bramati and Davide Ballerini we have two people who live in Bergamo, the worst hit city in Europe."

In an interview with Cyclingnews Vaughters also shared some of Lefevere's concerns. 

“We’re dependent on sponsorship dollars and while cycling provides spectacular value for those dollars spent," Vaughters said. "If a company is no longer able to conduct commerce and aren’t able to weather that storm it doesn’t matter how much value you can offer them.”

"There won’t be a single team that isn’t affected by this."

But the American is determined to find new ways to continue providing value and exposure to their sponsors.  

“Whether the Tour happens or not is totally out of our control. We are trying to create some interesting content that’s of value to our sponsors and our fans that keeps them engaged, looking ahead and motivated.

"We’re looking at things no more than one week ahead.”

Vaughters also said the global crisis could be the catalyst cycling needs to once and for all take a long hard look at itself.  

"This could be an opportunity to take a step back and really examine how cycling is set up, from a strategic standpoint.

It’s grown organically over the years and maybe this is an opportunity because there’s going to be an element of attrition, to see how professional cycling is set up.

"There might be some economic realities that come with this that makes everyone look at what’s needed and what’s not.”

At the time of publishing, the coronavirus has killed 14,686 globally, Italy the worst affected with 5,476 deaths.