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by Dane Cash
May 15, 2020
Photography by Cor Vos
Mitch Docker should have been recovering from a busy Classics campaign and Michael Woods should have been working his way back from an injury and gearing up for Grand Tour season right now, but the EF teammates instead find themselves spending long hours on the trainer these days, just like almost everyone else around the peloton.
As is the case for so many pros, results have been mixed so far; Docker described his first few Zwift outings as “getting my head kicked in” but gradually came around to the virtual racing scene and has since become one of the team’s go-to sources for Zwift tips.
Outdoor racing remains on everyone’s mind, however, and the eventual return of racing has been a subject that both Docker and Woods have been pondering over the past few weeks. The EF duo weighed in on the topic in a recent interview for the Roadmap Episodes of the CyclingTips podcast.
Amid the unveiling of an extremely optimistic revamped 2020 calendar, the pros’ perspective comes with a dose a reality. For Docker, the thought of squeezing so many events into such a small time frame just isn’t feasible, even if coronavirus concerns dissipate.
“I actually don’t think we will race this year. It’s a scary thought,” the 33-year-old Australian said.
“A lot of teams are running on the backbone of their staff now. So logistically it would have been a hard task doing that with a whole functioning team. Going from the Tour de France, which we know takes more than half of the team, everyone organizing it, and then after there’s the worlds, the Giro, the Vuelta, and then you’ve got all these other Classics. Logistically I don’t know if any team could do that.”
Compounding those concerns is the issue of providing entire rosters ample race prep in such limited time, a concern Woods echoed.
“If you want to have success for the rest of the season now, you have to do the Tour basically,” Woods said. “Anybody who does the Tour, it’s going to be a really small list of guys who did the Tour, and then after that those guys who did the Tour will be thrown into whatever races are left.”
For the punchy Canadian, there are tough times ahead for many riders, particularly for less established pros who could fall through the cracks as teams struggle to get all their riders to races with fitness to compete.
“This is going to be such a tough year from the market perspective. Particularly because of the [lack of] opportunity,” he said.
“A lot of teams rosters are 30-rider rosters and I could see up to 10 riders on some of these rosters not racing at all. If you’re in that group of riders that doesn’t get any of those races and you’re already not sure about what your future is, it’s going to be savage. You’re going to be on the phone with your agent a ton, if he’s answering his calls. You’re going to feel like the nerd going into prom with no date, calling everybody but not getting any responses.”
For both riders, it’s not easy to find a silver lining in the unprecedented situation. That said, Docker and Woods agreed that the reduction of the WorldTour calendar – which often receives criticism for running over such a long time period – could boost excitement among fans.
“Just say this program goes ahead at the end, this proposed condensed program, and we get the vibe of what it’s like having racing like bang, bang, bang. Everyone’s just fixated on racing and it’s condensed,” Docker said.
“You know when you’re watching the Tour de France and it finishes, you sort of get this ‘aw, the Tour’s over’ down. But then the next week the Giro’s on, so you’re like, ‘Yeah, great!'”
Docker and Woods could see the unusual circumstances potentially motivating positive change in the way the calendar runs moving forward.
“From a fan’s perspective it’s so much and everything you want from it, when you’re really hyped up for it, and then it’s over,” Woods said. “It’s maybe a little crazy in two months, but just say it’s four months.”
For that to happen, of course, a number of things will have to go right in between now and August. In the meantime, pros and fans alike will be waiting to see what happens next in the cycling world, and the world at large, while likely spending a lot more time on Zwift.
While the waiting game for outdoor racing continues, however, expect some pros, Docker included, to thrive in the virtual world.
“You need to learn the new craft,” he said. “I’ve started to learn that craft and when you do it gets more enjoyable.”