Lefevere’s concerns, De Gendt’s big ride: Daily News Digest

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Hello again, CyclingTips readers.

No matter where you are around the world, this past weekend was probably a long way away from the norm.

For cycling fans, one of the beacons of the early season, Milan-San Remo, didn’t run (apart from in fictionalised form, of course). There’ll be no racing for the foreseeable future, for that matter. And social-distancing has hopefully kept your rides responsibly spaced – if you’re allowed to ride outside at all.

But even if cycling isn’t taking place in its normal form, there’s still news. Patrick Lefevere is ruminating about the sustainability of cycling’s financial model faced with coronavirus, riders are getting creative with their training, and Strava’s now a tool in the French police arsenal.

All that and more in our rundown from the weekend.

Until next time, readers, stay safe.


What’s news

| Lefevere concerned about financial future of sport

Deceuninck-Quickstep team boss Patrick Lefevere has outlined concerns about the implications of coronavirus on the sport in his Het Nieuwsblad column.

“What I read worries me. Every day I am afraid that a rider or someone on the staff will call me to say that they have become ill,” Lefevere wrote. “With Davide Bramati and Davide Ballerini, we have two people who live in Bergamo, the worst-hit city in Europe.”

As a team manager, he also has concerns about the ongoing financial viability of the sport’s sponsorship model. “I realize that in that big story, cycling is just a footnote, but I’m a cycling team manager, so I’m also worried. All companies that export see their turnover drop. And then savings are quickly made on marketing. It would be naive to think that the economic impact of the corona crisis does not translate to cycling,” he wrote.

Lefevere lamented that his team’s most likely showcase, the spring classics, will pass by without racing, but also dramatically outlined the possible impact if the Tour de France is not able to run as scheduled: “Organizer ASO can take a beating, the teams can’t. If there is no Tour de France, the whole model of cycling can collapse.”

| IOC sets mid-April deadline for postponement of Olympics

Following mounting disquiet about their insistence that the Tokyo Olympics will be held as scheduled, the IOC has set a deadline to determine whether they will postpone the event.

Within four weeks, the IOC will make the call about the viability of the July timeslot. However, in a press release the IOC stated that cancellation of the Tokyo Games was not on the agenda – just postponement.

“These scenarios relate to modifying existing operational plans for the Games to go ahead on 24 July 2020, and also for changes to the start date of the Games.”

“This step will allow better visibility of the rapidly changing development of the health situation around the world and in Japan. It will serve as the basis for the best decision in the interest of the athletes and everyone else involved,” the statement reads.

| Nibali tackles MSR-finale… virtually

Vincenzo Nibali wasn’t able to add another Milan-San Remo win to his palmares this weekend, but he rode the race finale regardless – virtually, that is.

The Milano-San Remo Virtual Experience was organised by RCS Sport together with Garmin, and saw over 4,000 riders tackle the last 57km of the route – from Alassio to the finish, including the Tre Capi, Cipressa and Poggio.

Nibali was arguably the biggest name to take part, but many other cycling luminaries had a spin, including Alberto Bettiol, Maurizio Fondriest, Davide Cassani and Ivan Basso.

| De Gendt and De Buyst’s 10 hour training ride

In honour of one of the season’s longest races, Lotto-Soudal duo Thomas de Gendt and Jasper de Buyst  put in a massive training ride in Belgium.

“It was planned because with the coronavirus we wanted to honor the 300km at Milan-San Remo,” De Gendt told Cyclingnews.

“Jasper lives near me and he was down to race Milan-San Remo so he was in great shape and wanted to release his frustration over the race being cancelled.”

The duo’s ride connected all the capital cities of the Belgian provinces, including bigger cities such as Brussels, Gent and Antwerp. Thanks to 120km of strong headwinds, the pair’s ride took 10 hours. It was, de Gendt said, “by far the longest training ride I’ve ever done” and “harder than Milan-San Remo – a lot harder.”

Unlike in some other parts of continental Europe, like Spain, Italy and France, there are currently few restrictions on cycling in Belgium. Nonetheless, De Gendt and De Buyst took steps to minimise their health impact – both to themselves and others – by maintaining a 1.5 metre gap and sanitising their hands whenever they stopped.

| Lotto Soudal’s Harm Vanhoucke attacked while training

Harm Vanhoucke, meanwhile, had an altogether less positive training experience than his teammates over the weekend. In West Flanders, Vanhoucke was forced off the road and then assaulted by a heavy-set middle-aged man driving a black van.

“[The man] got out aggressively and I urged him to keep his distance, after saying that he deliberately punched me in the face several times and stormed away. This is anything but normal in times of corona[virus]. If anyone [knows] this person, please send me a message,” Vanhoucke wrote on Facebook.

| In France, Strava is now a law enforcement resource

The French police have added a new tool to their arsenal – Strava. As part of the country’s restrictions in response to coronavirus, there is a ban on cycling outdoors, other than within 2km of home, or for vital shopping trips and work.

Members of the public are now tipping off the police with Strava activities of riders that have disobeyed the decree. In some cases, the police have even commented on the activity informing the errant cyclists that they have been fined €135.

| Gianni Mura, Italian cycling journalism legend, dies

And in sad news – more sad news – out of Italy, Gianni Mura has passed away. Mura, a veteran Italian sports journalist, first covered the Tour de France in 1967. The years since then were covered by Mura, working in the press room on a typewriter and dictating his dispatches by phone. CyclingNews’ Stephen Farrand explains the loss here.

Our condolences with Mura’s family and friends at this time.

| Apparel brands step up for coronavirus crisis

And finally, a dose of positivity: responding to the global pandemic, many factories are mobilising their supply chains to produce essentials beyond their core business. Cycling apparel brands have joined this movement, too, adapting their production lines to make medical equipment.

Kitsbow and Orucase are among the brands that have pivoted this way in the US, while in Italy, Santini is gearing up to produce 10,000 face masks a day. Thanks, folks.

In case you missed it

| Tour de Quarantine stage one

From US sports commentator Brad Sohner, this is an absolute joy.


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Today’s featured image of Thomas de Gendt at the 2019 Vuelta a España comes from Kristof Ramon.

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