What postponement means for riders with Olympic plans

by José Been


Tuesday’s announcement that the Tokyo Olympics will be postponed to 2021 marked an unprecedented moment in the history of the Games, which have been held as scheduled every four years since the Second World War. The decision will have major ramifications for the organizers and the host country – as well as for the many athletes who have been spent years laser-focused on the summer of 2020, only to now find themselves adapting to new plans.

“The Tokyo Olympics were my biggest goal of the 2020 season. I was more than ready for it after my two world titles in Berlin,” Kirsten Wild told CyclingTips following the announcement. “Up until this morning I trained for that goal but after the news starting to come through in the last days I already thought, why am I doing these sprints now, why not just cruise along for today?”

Wild’s WNT-Ceratizit squad is one of several across the pro peloton with multiple riders on the roster focusing on either the road and track cycling events at the Olympics. Many women’s teams’ sponsors traditionally run on a four-year Olympic cycle. With the Tokyo Olympics now taking place in 2021, some teams could be facing uncertainty.

“Thankfully our sponsors WNT and Ceratizit are very committed and truly love track cycling and they are set to continue past 2020 as sponsors,” Wild said. “I also realize that with the current economic conditions they have something else on their mind than thinking about us as a team.”

Wild had just heard the news when CyclingTips contacted her. The 37-year old Dutch rider knows many questions will be answered in the upcoming weeks and months and needs some time to process the news herself first.

“I just love riding my bike and hadn’t decided yet whether this would have been my last year,” she said. “I also am not afraid that I would not be capable of doing what I did this year at Worlds. I know there are far bigger issues at stake than what we as cyclists and other athletes go through. The upcoming weeks my trainer and I will see how we approach training. I do hope that there will be races this year and that we maybe could be doing our Spring Classics in the fall.”

Kirsten Wild has already secured her Olympic ticket but many countries still had a selection process running. Audrey Cordon-Ragot was part of the French pre-selection.

“I think it’s a very wise decision to postpone. I was freaking out a little about the selection,” she said from her home in Brittany. “How were they going to do it? How would I be able to maintain my form? How would it be a fair process if we can’t even ride outside in France?

“I feel this is the fairest way forward. In France we are on lockdown so we can’t ride outside while in other countries they still can. Now everyone will be back to the same circumstances to prepare for next year. I can now focus on how to stay fit for when the races resume. I can also focus on my and my family’s health. I felt a bit selfish being consumed with my sport when we now realize there are more important things than worrying about the Olympics.

“Luckily me and my husband have a big garden to work in so that’s what we do now and after that I might get a bit bored.”

Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio would have represented South Africa at the Tokyo Olympics this year. She heard the news in Girona where she and her husband Carl run a bed and breakfast tailored for cyclists.

“Postponing the Olympics is the fairest thing to do. At first I thought it’s still many months ahead and things can change,” she said. “Like many, I also underestimated the global impact at first but many athletes like swimmers or triathletes have big disadvantages in preparing for the event. If they are forced to prepare, they might take unnecessary risks so this is the best decision for everyone.”

Moolman-Pasio is trying to see the upsides of the postponement of the Games.

“I was happy it was postponed and not cancelled,” she said, “I love riding my bike but I also want to be a mother eventually. Four more years are a long way out. This is only a year and I can use that year to improve. I started working with a new trainer and together we have some things to perfect like time trial set-ups for the specifics of the Tokyo course. I feel like I am now in my best years as a cyclist and this gives me extra time.”

Spain, like Italy and a handful of other places, is one of the countries with a complete lockdown forbidding cyclists to ride outdoors. Moolman-Pasio has considered traveling back to her native South Africa for possible better training conditions but decided against that even before South Africa went into lockdown on Monday.

“Spain is my home now. I am fortunate that I have a great indoor training set-up here with my Tacx and a huge screen in front of me,” she said. “It takes some adjusting but I now use the different training approach to improve some of my weaknesses too. When you would have asked me two weeks ago, I would have told you I don’t like riding my indoor trainer and Zwift but you grow into it. Furthermore, there is so much more happening in the world now that is bigger than cycling.”

Editors Picks