Cycling Opinion

Mid-season, off-season

This time last month we were nestled happily in the opening weeks of a new racing season, celebrating the increasing number of European stage races, anticipating the Cobbled Classics and looking ahead to a fiercely fought battle over the yellow jersey this summer. Oh, how times change…

The first bike race to be affected by Coronavirus was the UAE Tour, cancelled abruptly during the night between stage 5’s ascent of Jebel Hafeet and the last two sprint stages. The riders, staff and all media associated with the race were immediately locked down in their hotel and confusion reigned. Cycling Instagram became an amusing place in the days that followed as teams awaited test results, attempted to occupy themselves without access to their bikes(!) and speculated over when they’d get home.

 

It was all very weird, inconsistent too. Some teams were allowed home while others, Team Cofidis, Groupama-FDJ and UAE-Team Emirates included, were kept in quarantine for an unspecified amount of time (I’ve learned that some French-speakers are referring to it as 40ine – as in quarante-ine – which I find far more satisfying than it probably deserves…). It was rumoured at one point that everyone’s tests had turned up negative, raising a lot of bemused eyebrows, but it has since been confirmed that Fernando Gaviria and his trusty lead-out lieutenant, Max Richeze, tested positive for the virus (they’re both coping well).

 

In the days and weeks that followed, races fell like dominoes, culminating in a bizarre curtain call at Paris-Nice. The calendar was scrubbed clean, teams sent their riders and staff home, and like the riders in Abu Dhabi who were reunited with their bikes after a number of days, indoor training has become more popular and important than ever.

 

Lockdown, quarantine, self-isolation – all are scary and unwelcome for individuals and businesses alike (although I suspect Zwift’s bank balance will be fine). So, what can we do to navigate this weird, untimely mid-season off-season?

Keep fit

Thank goodness for turbo trainers. Even after a long winter of slugging away in our pain caves while dreaming of fresh air, we’re only too happy to have those instruments of evil available to us. In the UK we’re still able, and encouraged, to keep riding outside while we still can, but it’s a different story elsewhere, particularly in pro cyclist hotspots in Italy, Spain and France.

 

The increased isolation and time indoors is also a good opportunity to work on other things like core strength, stability and yoga, and to make plans for future objectives and adventures.

 

Keep shopping

This may sound crass, but it is a hard time for everyone, with the vast majority of people staying indoors, small independent businesses are facing a very real threat. British pro cyclist, Alex Dowsett, and his partner Chanel have mobilised their Instagram community to raise awareness of exactly the organisations that need our help most. If there were ever a time to shop small and support local businesses, that time is now.

 

 

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Keep talking

Right now, there’s no way of knowing how long this situation is going to last, so people are expecting public mental health to be significantly affected. Isolation and social distancing are designed to save lives, but the reduced physical and social contact, not to mention the emotional burden of uncertainty, are going to be felt be everyone. I for one am going to take this opportunity to get on the phone, keep talking with family and reconnect with those friendships that might have gone quiet.

 

All of these steps might help to get through this time, but don’t feel under any pressure to do anything. There’s a lot of noise at the moment about the time we’ve got on our hands, writing novels, painting masterpieces, getting in the shape of our lives, but the most important thing you can do at this time is to look after yourselves and your loved ones. We’ll be back on the open road before we know it.