GERAINT Thomas has welcomed the chance to repeat his 2018 Tour de France victory later this year.

The biggest event in cycling has been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic rather than cancelled with a June to July schedule changed to a start on August 29 and Paris finale on September 20.

Thomas, who is raising money for the NHS with three 12-hour rides at his Cardiff home, is pleased to have a date to build towards.

"It's great news. If it can still go ahead, that's fantastic for the sport," said Thomas to the BBC.

"We heavily rely on (the Tour) to do our jobs really and it's also good for the fans.

"I've really missed watching rugby and football games so if it can return, and we can all get back to racing, I think it's great all round.

"It will be a great showcase of getting over a challenging and horrible period for the whole world.

"It's just crazy how this has all developed and it would be great to do it. There's still a bit of uncertainty in there because of the way the last few weeks have gone.

"It's good to have that date in your head and you can really start to work towards that. Once we get back training on the roads like normal it will be a great feeling."

Following several weeks of discussions between organisers ASO and local authorities due to host stages, the race is due to take place on the planned route with no significant changes, beginning on the French Riviera before heading for the Pyrenees and with the battle for yellow reaching a climax in the Alps.

Postponement of the Tour became inevitable on Monday when French president Emmanuel Macron announced there could be no mass gatherings in the country until mid-July, but news of its fate had been anxiously awaited given the race's importance to the sport.

The Tour is critical for the economics of cycling considering teams' reliance on sponsorship, which is in turn dependent on the exposure brought by the world's biggest race.

The UCI statement read: "Holding this event in the best conditions possible is judged essential given its central place in cycling's economy and its exposure, in particular for the teams that benefit on this occasion from unparalleled visibility."

As well as new dates for the Tour, the UCI said the Giro d'Italia - originally due to begin in Budapest on May 9 - would take place after the Tour but before the Vuelta a Espana, which will move back from its planned start on August 16.

There will be no change to the UCI's own Road World Championships - set for September 20 to 27 - despite the final day of the Tour clashing with the opening day of competition in Aigle-Martigny, Switzerland, where the men's elite time trial is first on the agenda.

Thomas said: "Once we get clarity that races can go ahead then there'll be a process of negotiating between the governing bodies, race organisers, teams and trying to get the best programme that works for everyone.

"From my point of my view and a lot of riders I have spoken to, I think the main thing is if the Tour can go ahead, that's sort of like the pinnacle of the sport and that's why sponsors come into the sport, it's because of that race."

The new Tour dates also clash with the Tour of Britain, scheduled for September 6 to 13.

The UCI will provide an update on the Women's World Tour no later than May 15.