Tour de France organisers are focusing on a postponement of this year's race rather than a cancellation due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to an email which was sent to the publishers of the official Tour programme.

The Tour's main publisher said in the email seen by Reuters that it was "freezing the administrative aspects of our collaboration" ahead of the sport's most prestigious race which is due to run from 27 June to 19 July.

"The unpredictable nature of the global crisis that we are all caught up in means that we will have to be patient until there's an official announcement of (Tour organisers) ASO about the 2020 race, bearing in mind that the current focus is on a postponement until later in the summer rather than a cancellation," the publishing arm of L'Equipe newspaper, which is owned by the same family as the Tour de France organisers, wrote.

Tour de France organisers declined to comment.

The Tokyo Olympics, soccer's European Championship, Wimbledon and French Open tennis, and golf's British Open are among the major sporting events this year which have been postponed or cancelled.

Postponing cycling's greatest stage race would be a major challenge for organisers as some 4,500 people - riders, sponsors, organisers and media - are directly involved in the three-week event.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) said last month that the grands tours (France, Italy, Spain) and the major one-day races would have priority on a revised scheduled once racing resumes.

May's Giro d'Italia, as well as the Milan-Sanremo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and Liege-Bastogne-Liege classics, have already been postponed.

Geraint Thomas, the 2018 Tour winner, said on Saturday he hoped the race would go ahead.

"That's a bit of a shame at the moment but there's a lot of serious things which need to take precedence over that," the Team INEOS rider told the BBC.

"It is a shame but hopefully it can go ahead. Obviously there are bigger things that need to be sorted out first but it's the pinnacle of the sport, it's what it's all about. I'm not sure when but hopefully it goes ahead this year."

Since its inception in 1903, the Tour de France has only been cancelled amid the two World Wars with no races held from 1915-18 and 1940-46.