Organisers of the Étoile de Bessèges have announced the cancellation of the opening stage that was due to take place on Wednesday.
According to the announcement, the local government requested the stage not be held due to “the current social context of the department”.
Farmers are planning to stage demonstrations across France, encircling Paris and snarling traffic with a tractor barricade, among other actions, to demand measures be taken to resolve the current agricultural crisis, making for a tough first month for new Prime Minister Gabriel Attal.
The farmers are protesting against EU regulations, which require 4% of farmland to be fallow to allow for biodiversity to recover and to reduce pesticide use. They also argue that cheap imports and higher costs of production in France have cut into their profits.
The Étoile de Bessèges was due to open with a 160-kilometre circuit around Bellegarde, a stage won last year by Arnaud De Lie (Lotto Dstny), as part of a five-stage route.
Eight WorldTour, seven ProTeam and four Continental teams are set to take part in the UCI 2.1-ranked event which runs through Sunday, February 4.
EF Education-EasyPost are the defending champions, having won the race with Neilson Powless in 2023.
Organisers expect the rest of the race to go forward.
“The worry is not at all the same for the other days of racing. In the Gard department, this area around Bellegarde is more impacted than the other roads that we will take from Thursday,” organiser Claudine Fangille told DirectVelo.
The race will start in Marguerittes on Thursday.
“We will then go back towards the north of the department and there will certainly be fewer problems with blockages. This is a less hot zone than [Wednesday]. Ditto for Saturday’s stage and the Bessèges stage,” Fangille said, adding that the race had agreed to let the farmers speak at the start and weren’t intending to stop the race.
“It was the prefecture that decided not to take any risks. We told them that there was a 99% chance that the first stage would not take place, even if it was not yet certain. This is now the case, but we will meet everyone on Thursday.”