Farmers from various regions in France have been obstructing roads in opposition to evolving policies and the economic difficulties confronting rural France in the last seven days. Among the affected routes is the A54. It intersects with the first stage of the race. The ultimate call to cancel the stage was made by Claudine Fangile, the president of the Department of Gard, as the ongoing protests displayed no indications of abating.
Statement from Etoile de Bessèges organizers
“Given the current social context in the department, the Prefecture of Gard has asked the organizers of the Etoile de Bessèges to cancel the first stage of the Etoile de Bessèges-Tour du Gard. It was to take place this Wednesday, January 31, 2024, between Bellegarde and Bellegarde,” a statement from the organizers read. “It is with regret that the first stage of the Etoile de Bessèges-Tour du Gard 2024 is cancelled.”
No end in sight for protests
The ongoing protests along major highways in France are expected to persist beyond January 31. Nevertheless, their impact on subsequent stages seems minimal, as only the first stage was slated to go across the affected A9 or A54.
Originally scheduled from Wednesday, Jan. 31, to Sunday, Feb. 4, the Etoile de Bessèges will now be shortened to four days.
In 2023, Neilson Powless of EF Education took the win, beating Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl – Trek) and Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies).
Thursday’s race, which will now open the stage race, goes from Marguerittes to Rousson for a total of 163.58 km.