The Secret Pro Lockdown Edition
Hello CyclingTips readers,
First off I want to acknowledge that we’re all going through this together in our own ways under our own circumstances. I hope I don’t come off as some self-entitled pro athlete and my complaints here are minor and the least of the World’s worries.
Needless to say these are strange times. Where do I even start with what’s going on in my world…
Where I live, the rules on what’s allowed and what’s not allowed are still confusing and unclear. Can I go out for a ride? Will I get fined if I do? When exactly do I need my papers to go out of my home? I know of other pros who have gone out for a ride and have received fines from the police, and others still go out riding daily in the same place. For me, I’ve basically shut it all down. I don’t go out and ride anymore and haven’t for weeks now. It’s not in the spirit of what’s being asked of us as a society, and with the confusion and hefty fines, I’m not going to risk it.
Here’s my daily routine: I wake up, I eat too much for breakfast, I go to the supermarket early to get food (and for something to do), eat too much again, get on the ergo for about an hour, and then drink too much coffee. My coach told me that once racing starts, it’s not going to stop until November so there’s no need to tire myself out now. My endurance might be suffering, but this is all I can mentally do. Besides, my coach told me not to do any more than that. Much more and you sweat too much and it’s not good quality anyway. When I start doing endurance rides, I’ll do double sessions on those days.
To be honest, the scenario we’re in has some silver linings. For as long as I’ve been a professional bike racer and made Europe my home I’ve have never had a routine where I get to be with my family all day long for a continuous amount of time. The fact that I’m not riding five hours a day means that I’m not too physically destroyed to play with my kids, go for walks with the family, and lots of ‘regular’ stuff that most people with more normal jobs get to do.
Besides, for most of us going home really isn’t an option. We keep being told that racing is right around the corner and we’re basically on stand-by. Our jobs are here, our team staff are here, most of our sponsors are here, and we need to be here too.
For the ones who did return to their homes overseas, this might be a problem for them when racing resumes. The guys who went back to the US, Colombia, Australia, etc…They’re going to need to be in quarantine when racing gets back up and running; that is if they can even get back into Europe.
Then there’s the difficulty of all the riders living in various lockdown measures and being in wildly different physical form. Some can ride outdoors in the mountains for five hours a day, some are confined to the indoor trainer. Rumour has it that when racing does resume, the Italian races will be only contended by Italian riders, same in France, same in Spain, etc. as a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’. When we race again it’ll be the guys from the hosting country who are racing in the form they’re in, and the rest of us will be packfill and just show up and sit on the back. For example if we raced the Vuelta, most of the peloton who are not from Spain would just play a passive role in the race, finish within the time limit, and let the Spanish riders duke it out amongst themselves. What a mess this is, but no solution is ideal. Say the Vuelta were to happen. I’m not even in Christmas form, and all my lycra seems to have shrunk!
I can’t see how we can come from this lockdown to get back racing again – especially the Tour de France. I think it’ll be many weeks at the very least – I can’t see how we can come out of a two month lockdown and go straight into thousands of people moving around from one side of France to the other and kick it all off again. 200 guys spitting and blowing our noses all over each other. Wimbledon is gone, the Canadian F1 is gone … these are much bigger sports than cycling and they’re not happening. Cycling is tiny compared to these. I’m sorry, but I can’t see the government saying that’s fine when they won’t even let us go outside and train right now. It doesn’t make sense. It’ll never happen and I don’t want to see it happen.
At the same time, I think pro cycling will be screwed if we don’t get back to racing this year, especially if the Tour de France doesn’t happen.
The talk is that there are a few teams we won’t see next season. If we lose these teams in the peloton next year it’s gonna be an absolute shit-fight with riders looking for contracts. What I’ve heard is that CCC is done, this will be Mitchelton’s final year (but we’ve heard that before), the guy bankrolling the Israel Start-up Nation has got cold feet [Ed. Sylvan Adams], and apparently NTT has been looking for a reason to pull out and they’re not in good shape.
For the first time ever I woke up last night thinking this could be my final year. I wanted to do a few more years after this year, but now contract negotiations have totally stalled. And this is the time when these conversations happen. I couldn’t sleep last night. I’m gonna go and have to find a regular job next year and cut my career short that I’ve worked so hard for. I’m looking forward to the next chapter in my career, but I’m nowhere close to being ready to leave cycling just yet.
At the same time I don’t think it’s right of me to take a contract off a young 20-year-old who is just starting his career. I’ve had a good run, done everything I’m going to do in the sport, I’ve enjoyed it … I don’t think it’s right for me to take a contract off him. These troubling times in lockdown have really made me realise that it’s not all about yourself.
I wanted to race Paris-Nice in the lead up. I was out training a week before and my phone messages kept on going off and then I stopped to check it figuring that Paris-Nice was going to be cancelled. But the messages weren’t about that. They were about all the guys talking about Strade-Bianche and how it’s almost definitely about to be cancelled. For days after I sat there waiting for an email saying that Paris-Nice would be cancelled when all the big teams were pulling out. But the only email that ever came was from our team saying that we’re racing. ASO assured us that they had taken all these steps to be more cautious, meanwhile we’d turn up to some of the hotels and as usual there were old men asking us to sign jerseys with pens that have been in their mouths, people asking for selfies, etc. They couldn’t even bother to make sure that common stuff didn’t happen when we were outside of the race barriers. During the race the French government said 1,000 people couldn’t be in the same place, but the teams, the ASO staff, the people coming to the starts… there were far more than a thousand people and rope barriers were our only protection. Then you’d get back to the bus and you’d have fans asking for a bidon as a souvenir. And this is what the ASO says was ‘behind closed doors’ – and Prudhomme says that the Tour de France won’t be behind closed doors?
CPA said that they made great strides with the ASO to protect our safety before Paris-Nice. Hang on a minute, you dickheads. You’re funded with our prize money, you need to stand up and tell them what we think and we have almost no visibility or communication with the CPA. They say to the UCI and race organisations that we’re happy to be there when pretty much nobody was.
On the Thursday night at P-N all the riders from various WT teams were sitting around their hotel rooms messaging each other saying that we all thought this wasn’t safe and we should be going home. Of course all the French riders wanted to stay, and Bardet was the only big French rider who really came out and questioned it with: “What’s the sense of it all, especially towards the rest of the population? We do our little race as if nothing is happening. It’s all very strange”. He was awesome, especially for a French guy to come out and say that.
You’d be hard-pressed to find five guys in the peloton who are happy with the CPA. I’ve never even seen Gianni Bugno in person. They don’t even have anyone who speaks English that I’ve ever met.
Who can we look towards to fight for our safety, wages, etc? Paris-Nice was only three weeks ago when this all started falling over, and it was two weeks ago when teams started reducing salaries. It is a bit strange how quick the teams were in taking salaries off the riders, even before anyone really knew the gravity of the situation. The UCI hasn’t done bugger all. There’s no leadership from them whatsoever. There’s this bank guarantee that the UCI keeps from the teams for things like covering riders’ wages, but they’re using that money to fight the Velon lawsuit against them. Knowing them, they’re blaming Lance Armstrong for this whole coronavirus situation.
UCI and CPA are absolutely pathetic.
There’s supposed to be a meeting on the 15th of April where the new calendar is decided. But that doesn’t mean anything and I don’t know why they’re wasting their time. The governments will have to give a go-ahead before any race is held.
Right now the UCI is saying we’ll start in racing in June. Here’s what’s on the table right now:
Milan San Remo will be held with Italian riders only, which will be more like an Italian National Championship race. June is proposed.
Then the Dauphine will be raced in July
One week later we’ll race the TdF (late July-mid August)
A shortened Vuelta finishes a few days before World Champs
Giro in October
Lombardia will be the last race
It’ll be interesting to see if China is still on the race program in November…
No word on the Classics. I didn’t see any rest days on the calendar either ;-)
The only thing for certain is that cycling will never be the same as we know it after 2020 is done.
Thanks for hearing my rant and I hope you’re all healthy and keeping sane.
Until next time,