Amid coronavirus pandemic, pro cyclist swaps kit for doctor’s coat

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With coronavirus sweeping across Europe, Bigla-Katusha’s Elise Chabbey traded Strade Bianche for the halls of the Geneva University Hospital, where she stands ready to do her part in a very different sort of race.

Chabbey, a recently graduated as a doctor of medicine, spent last season balancing her pro career with the life of a medical student, and this year had planned to put her medical career on hold until her life as a racer played out. But the sweep of coronavirus through Europe changed that. In early March, as she was scheduled to start Strade Bianche, she instead put her hand up for the hospital that would soon be in need of help.

“The hospital lacks nursing staff, it is looking for reinforcements. It was normal for me to be a candidate. On Monday, I was contacted by phone. And there I am ready to take action, to make myself useful. Everything happened very quickly, the stress didn’t even have time to fall on me,” she said local Swiss paper 24heures.

“This Tuesday, the hospital was still in the reorganization phase before the imminent arrival of the wave of patients affected by Covid-19,” she said. “I think everything is ready.”

Balancing racing with a medical career is not new to Chabbey, who raced with Bigla through the 2019 season, including through the Giro Rosa, while finishing her degree. Though the classics season is no more, her primary goals of making the Swiss Olympic team and then competing in her home road world championships remain. She’s continuing to ride now, jumping on the trainer for intensity sessions in the evenings after returning home.

Chabbey was originally slated to start her medical at Sion Hospital in November, after devoting the 2020 season to racing. But the pandemic accelerated that timeline.

“What’s happening now is unprecedented, and given the severity of the situation, I feel like I have to do something,” she said.

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