Road Cycling

Key questions for cycling amid the coronavirus pandemic – expressandstar.com

The coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc with the sporting calendar as events are postponed or cancelled to try to slow the spread.

Since Paris-Nice was brought to a finish one day earlier than planned on March 14, cycling has effectively shut down with every race on the WorldTour calendar up to the Criterium du Dauphine, still scheduled for May 31, postponed or cancelled.

Here the PA news agency looks at the impact on the sport.

Which races have been cancelled?

Cycling got one of the more dramatic introductions to the coronavirus outbreak when the final two stages of the UAE Tour were cancelled in late February, with Chris Froome and Mark Cavendish among 600 riders, staff, and journalists put into lockdown in Abu Dhabi due to two suspected cases of the virus at the race. Away from the road, the UCI has announced it is drawing a line under qualification for both the BMX and mountain bike events at the Tokyo Olympics, cancelling the remaining events scheduled for the spring.

Which races have been postponed?

For now, the bulk of road races have been postponed, though it is almost impossible to see how so many races could be rescheduled this season. The Giro d’Italia, due to start in Budapest on May 9, is on hold, as are four of the five Monuments, cycling’s biggest one-day races, as Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, and Liege-Bastogne-Liege have all been postponed so far. New dates are also being sought for the Tour de Yorkshire and the Women’s Tour among others.

What might be next to go?

All of the speculation now is focused on the Tour de France, which is scheduled to begin in Nice on June 27. Several leading figures in the sport have said it would be a “disaster” for cycling if the Tour did not go ahead – something which last happened in 1946. But with each passing day as the situation across Europe appears to worsen, the likelihood grows that the 107th edition of cycling’s biggest race will be delayed.

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Is anything like to remain?

Beyond the Tour the next major events left on the schedule – besides the Olympic races – are the Vuelta a Espana, starting on August 16 in Utrecht, and the UCI Road World Championships, due to start on September 20 in Aigle-Martigny, Switzerland. The Tour of Britain is scheduled to begin in Cornwall on September 6, but it remains to be seen how much more of the calendar will be lost or disrupted.

Where does the sport go from here?

The fate of the Tour de France could be key in determining the scale of the crisis for cycling (Pete Goding/PA)

As a sport which does not charge fans to attend road races and which often does little more than cover its costs through broadcast revenues, cycling is hugely reliant on its sponsors, who need television exposure to justify their investment. An extended period off the screens therefore creates an existential crisis for a number of teams and the longer the hiatus goes on, the more the concern will grow. The Tour de France is critical to the accounts of many teams and its fate will determine how serious this crisis gets for the sport.