Men’s cycling’s long-awaited return from the coronavirus-induced stoppage was hailed a success by riders and teams, raising hopes that the condensed calendar can continue without too many problems.
More than four months after a disrupted Paris-Nice nursed itself to the finish line, the men’s professional peloton, including 14 WorldTour teams, returned to action at the five-stage Vuelta a Burgos in northern Spain. Then, at the weekend, both the men’s and women’s pelotons competed in a sweltering Strade Bianche.
Won by Remco Evenepoel, Deceuninck- Quick Step’s 20-year-old phenomenon, Burgos was a race full of the same occurrences, routines, traditions, and charms, combined with Covid-19 protocols and a hefty dose of caution, especially with case numbers rising across the Continent.
The traveling nature of a stage race means it cannot operate in a bio-secure manner like other sports such as golf and cricket, but measures are taken – including everyone involved in the race from riders and team staff to journalists taking regular Covid-19 tests, the last at least 72 hours before the start – reassured everyone present that only further government-imposed stay-at-home measures should prevent the season from continuing.
Brian Holm, DS at Deceuninck-Quick Step, said: “I cannot see how me being home with all of my friends, without a mask, is safer than being here.
“Why should we ever stop cycling? OK, if there is a total lockdown all over Europe then we have to, but I think it’s safer here than being home. We have to continue.”
There was an air of caution, however, as two riders from Israel Start-Up Nation, including Brit Alex Dowsett, and three Colombians from the UAE-Team Emirates, all left the race after being in recent contact with a positive case. All five returned subsequent negative tests.
Aside from Movistar, who would have preferred entire teams to leave the race rather than just individual riders, there was broad respect across the peloton for the decisive actions of both teams.
The latter team’s sports director Aurelio Corral Ruiz told Cycling Weekly: “We are in a new era. They told us that this was going to happen, and we understand that the health of everyone is more important than the sport.
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August 06, 2020