It is too soon to decide whether the Tour de France can go ahead amid the coronavirus pandemic, a French Sports Ministry spokeswoman told Reuters on Thursday.
Following the postponement of the Euro 2020 soccer Championship and the Tokyo Olympic Games, the Tour de France -- due to take place in June and July -- is one of the last major global sporting events that has not yet been cancelled.
"The Tour is a sports monument. It is too soon to decide. There is a time for everything. For now, we have a more urgent battle to fight. Let us focus on this mountain in front of us and then consider what's next," French Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu wrote on Twitter.
Late on Wednesday, local radio station France Bleu quoted her as saying that France may consider organising the Tour without spectators in order to minimise the risk of infection.
"Everything is imaginable. We have (imposed spectator bans) for other competitions before, even though it won't have the same impact because the business model of the Tour doesn't depend on ticket sales like football or rugby," she said.
"I think that today everybody is aware and responsible about the period of isolation we are going through and everyone knows the reasons and the benefits that it can bring to all," she said.
"So finally it wouldn't be so bad because you could still watch it on TV."
The Tour attracts more than 10 million spectators along France's roads every year and is broadcast globally.
However, Marc Madiot, the president of the French cycling league and director of the Groupama–FDJ cycling team said it would be difficult to police a Tour without spectators.
"How would you stop the public from attending?" he said.
France's 67 million people have broadly respected the conditions of an unprecedented peacetime lockdown but few sports stir the passions of French sports enthusiasts more than cycling.
Moreover, riders often race large parts of a stage in closely-packed groups and team members live in close proximity to one another for nearly a month in hotels, and travel together on buses and airplanes that shuttle them between stages.
Teams are already grappling with how to keep their riders fit after the cycling season was suspended last week. All races up until the end of April have been cancelled.
"As long as we are not allowed to get out on the road, it is hard to think about getting in shape for the event," AG2R-La Mondiale rider Romain Bardet told France Bleu.