Tour de France in August, not everyone thinks it’s a good idea – Top Story. Virtual race news from the Digital Suisse5 as Rohan Dennis wins stage 1. Other news: Jumbo-Visma director Richard Plugge recovering from coronavirus, Marcel Kittel, David Brailsford, Rigoberto Uran, Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet talk Tour and Rafal Majka talks Giro. Giro Rosa in September, Vuelta a Madrid canceled, cyclocross and Classics on the same day, Bora-Hansgrohe prepared to race until Christmas, Arkéa-Samsic extends rider contracts, Tony Martin postpones retirement and Eusebio Unzué compares Nairo Quintana and Chris Froome. Be safe.
TOP STORY: Virologists Pessimistic About Tour
A number of internationally respected virologists warn of potential health problems if the Tour de France was to be run. The big race on the calendar has been postponed to August 29 to September 20 because of the coronavirus, but that date is too early, according to the experts.
“Everyone has seen images of climbs on cols such as the Izoard or the Tourmalet or also in Italy, with many supporters. That is completely impossible,” said Stefano D’Amelio, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Rome. The Belgian sports channel, Sporza, spoke to three leading virologists about the risks of the corona virus in conjunction with cycling. “A second wave of infections is very likely. The hypothesis is now that the second wave, which will be less severe, will come in September or October. That coincides with the Tour and the Giro. Sorry.”
In addition to the spectators at the road-side, the virus also carries great risks for cyclists. “If there were riders in the incubation period and were infected by the coronavirus and they make such efforts during the early stages of an infection, that could make the impact much greater,” said Stanford professor Dean Winslow. “There is evidence that riders could be spreading contaminated droplets that end up four or five meters behind them.”
According to the virologists, we should take into account a ban on international sports competitions lasting at least half a year: “I think it is very unlikely that we will have sporting events in the next six months,” said Benjamin Cowie, professor of epidemiology at the University of Melbourne.
Social distancing on the Tourmalet:
Digital Suisse 5
The first stage of the virtual Tour of Switzerland was won by Rohan Dennis. The Australian Ineos rider was the strongest on Stage 1 of the Digital Suisse 5 on the Rouvy platform.
Nineteen teams of three riders were presented with a 26.6 kilometre virtual ride with almost 1200 metres of climbing. Luke Durbridge (Mitchelton-Scott) and James Whelan (EF Pro Cycling) chose the attack early. Whelan quickly left his companion on the first climb of the day. Countrymen Dennis and Cameron Wurf (Ineos) started to chase the solo leader from behind.
After 9 kilometres, Dennis took over from Whelan. On the remainder of the climb, he further distanced his compatriot, to pass the summit first and hold onto his lead to the finish. Nicolas Roche (Sunweb) finished second at 1:09, ahead of Whelan. The Australians dominated the top ten, with six riders among the top ten.
Digital Swiss 5 Stage 1 Result:
1. Rohan Dennis (Aus) Ineos in 53:07
2. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Sunweb at 1:09
3. James Whelan (Aus) EF Pro Cycling at 1:28
4. Chris Hamilton (Aus) Sunweb at 1:38
5. Ben O’Connor (Aus) NTT at 2:03
6. Luke Durbridge (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott at 2:17
7. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Deceuninck – Quick-Step at 2:37
8. flag-be Pieter Serry (Bel) Deceuninck – Quick-Step at 3:14
9. Lawson Craddock (US) EF Pro Cycling at 3:15
10. Cameron Wurf (Aus) Ineos at 3:35.
Suisse’20 stage 1:
Jumbo-Visma Director Richard Plugge Recovering from Coronavirus
Richard Plugge is one of the 35,000 Dutch people who has been infected with the corona virus. The 50-year-old general manager of Jumbo-Visma ended up in hospital six weeks ago, he says via his LinkedIn account. “I have had two incredibly hard weeks with a high fever and anxious moments.”
“Thanks to the good care of the hospital employees, I got through it. I am still recovering, even though I have been home for five weeks. What I saw and experienced in the hospital was shocking: the pressure, the ignorant and the difficult circumstances. A lot of respect for the doctors. Please, for yourself, your environment and your loved ones: continue to control yourself and follow the rules for as long as necessary.” The Netherlands have had over 4,000 fatalities.
Plugge has still been thinking about cycling: “We are really looking forward to racing again as soon as possible. But this can only be done in a safe way, with the permission of the authorities, to monitor the health and safety of the riders, teams and organisers as number one priority. With a good plan, scenarios, testing, quarantine, and so on, it may be possible. I hope so. If we can cycle again, it would mean that the corona situation is under control or has disappeared.”
“That would be good news for all of us, in the meantime I can tell you: I’ve been there. It is a very unpleasant and serious illness. So use your brain: stay safe, stay at home as much as you can. Let’s take good care of each other.”
Primoz Roglic, Richard Plugge and Dylan Groenewegen:
Marcel Kittel Unsure of the Tour in 2020
Marcel Kittel does not expect a Tour de France to take place this year. In a conversation with be IN SPORTS he explains that he is skeptical about the chances that the main race of the calendar can take place this year.
“We need to be aware that given the pandemic, the new date is anything but certain,” said Kittel. “I’m pretty skeptical, I think it’s going to be really hard, given the circumstances, to organise an event of this size. Even if precautions are taken.”
“The Tour is a major event in a very densely populated country where many people are involved. I would like the Tour to take place, but only under good conditions. It all depends on the situation, whether it can be decided with the politicians and experts, or whether it can take place in a safe environment.”
He thinks the chance of continuing is nil. “But for me there is no chance that the Tour will take place this fall. Many other important events have been canceled. Nobody knows what it will be in six months. We can only wait and see how it goes.”
Tour stage winner – Marcel Kittel:
Dave Brailsford Calls for Solidarity
Dave Brailsford believes that cycling teams should help each other in these difficult times, the Team Ineos manager said in conversation with Sporza.
“While we often fight on the cutting edge, we also need each other,” said Brailsford. “You only have a healthy sport if you also have healthy teams with a healthy structure. It is in everyone’s interest that we support each other as much as possible.”
He hopes that competitions can still be held this year. “If we can only race again next year, everyone is under pressure. That is the case for every sports team that depends 100% on sponsor money.” He does, however warn. “I am optimistic, but we shouldn’t be reckless to want to race. Responsibility comes first.”
The new calendar creates new challenges. “The double Giro-Tour is no longer possible, so we have to puzzle again,” he said. The fact that the Giro is being moved may have consequences for the Tour selection. “More riders are now eligible for the Tour team than before. We will have to make difficult decisions. But the hierarchy remains. Spreading your top riders too much will dilute your chances.”
David Brailsford hopes for the future:
Rigoberto Uran: “No Tour would be a disaster”
Rigoberto Uran fears that a possible cancellation of the Tour de France will have disastrous consequences for cycling. The Colombian even predicts that in a year without the Tour, only three WorldTour teams could survive.
“Cycling is a poor sport because it is only supported by business. If the Tour were canceled, it would be a disaster,” he wrote on the Colombian Cycling Federation site. “Of all WorldTour teams, only three could survive. At the moment, there are only three teams that are economically strong. There are only a few companies in the world that are doing well at the moment. If this continues, there will be a crisis. When a company needs to cut back, they start their marketing plans. This has consequences for cycling.”
His EF Education First team has also been affected: “They gave us a new contract and cut salaries by about 40 percent.” Uran said he can live with that, but sympathises with his younger colleagues. “I have plans for after my cycling career, but it is difficult for those who have just come to watch.”
The 33-year-old is willing to do a Grand Tour in October or November if necessary. “If they tell us to race in the cold, we will race in the cold. We will also have to see how this all works out. Either they let us travel, or they let us enter Europe and they let us leave Colombia,” said Uran. “But nothing is certain at the moment. Our only goal right now is to be ready for the Tour. Whether we will ride it or not remains to be seen.”
Uran keeping the fans happy in the Tour:
Pinot Still Aiming at the Tour
Thibaut Pinot built his season around the Tour de France and that plan has not changed. The corona virus came very close to the 29-year-old Frenchman recently. “Both my parents are infected. My father tested positive 25 days ago and he is still sick,” he told L’Equipe. His father – Mayor of Mélisey – spent twenty days in the hospital, but was now allowed to go home. “A quarter of the 2,000 inhabitants in our village have been ill. So when you go shopping, you can only hope that you do not get sick yourself.”
The lockdown in France will last until May 11, he hopes to resume his preparation for the Tour de France, which is now two months later on the calendar, but this is no problem for Pinot. “To be honest, little changes for us riders because of the new date for the Tour de France,” he said on the Groupama-FDJ team website. “Everyone knows that the coming weeks will be decisive. At the end of May we will know if the Tour can really continue. I am not pessimistic and just wait to see how it evolves. In any case, the Tour remains my biggest goal.”
“If the Tour cannot start at the end of August, it will not be run this year. That would mean that the crisis is not over yet and that we can no longer race this year. That is in the back of my mind, but I try not to think about it.” Until then, he will still have to maintain his condition. In France, riders are not allowed to train outside. “Training on the rollers is really not my thing, it has nothing to do with the feeling I normally have on my bike.” Pinot is not a fan of virtual racing either. “That fascinated me for two weeks, but now it is enough. I would rather be in a slightly lesser form when the lockdown has ended than to now stress myself mentally.”
One of the negative consequences of the French lockdown is that there are currently no doping controls. Pinot said that it has not been tested since October. “That is a long time ago. I hope it gets going again because it’s not good news for riders trying to do it honestly. I hope there will be checks again soon, so that we can start well.”
Thibaut Pinot Tor’19 success:
Romain Bardet on The Tour
Romain Bardet was a happy man after new date for the Tour de France. “There was light at the end of the tunnel,” says the Frenchman in conversation with Le Monde. The AG2R-La Mondiale rider now looks at the situation differently. “There are still many questions, but no answers.”
The French stage race now starts on August 29 and ends three weeks later on September 20 in Paris. “I was really euphoric after hearing the news, but I’m already a lot more careful now,” Bardet stated. “Let’s face it: we just want to hear that the Tour will continue. As an athlete it is important to have a goal, but I still see a lot of dangers. We will not have a miracle vaccine against the coronavirus in September, so we will have to take strict security measures by then. But can that be reconciled with the character of the Tour?”
“I am no longer so enthusiastic. We have many questions about practical matters, but we are still waiting for answers. Football matches are likely to take place behind closed doors in the coming period. It is the only solution, according to epidemiologists.” Bardet cannot imagine a safe Tour de France. “It is difficult to imagine that a participant will not come into contact with a carrier of the virus at all. Are we going to spread the virus unnoticed throughout France for three weeks? The peloton is a hotbed for potential infections. We breathe, sweat and touch each other. Think of massages and contact in restaurants. It cannot be prevented.”
“I am a sportsman but at the same time also a realistic citizen. It’s important to stay motivated, but we don’t know if the Tour will continue.” Bardet was originally to make his debut in the Giro d’Italia, but the corona virus put a stop to that.
Bardet not sure about the Tour:
The First Big Goal for Rafal Majka was the Giro
Rafał Majka was ready to shine in the Giro d’Italia, but the Polish climber is currently at home due to the corona crisis. “The Giro was my first big goal of the season, but I now have to adjust my training schedules,” Majka said on the Bora-Hansgrohe team website.
30-year-old Majka has finished in the top 10 in the Tour of Italy four times and was again keen on a good result this year, but the first Grand Tour of the season will now later this year. The UCI would like to organise the Giro after the Tour de France and the World championships, although the future is still very uncertain.
“I had fully tuned my preseason to the Giro and would ride the Tour of the Alps after altitude training. Now that we are forced not to race, it is important to adjust my training. It is not yet clear when the Giro is on the program,” said Majka, who is still allowed to train outside in his home country of Poland. “We have quite strict safety measures in Poland, but I can still cycle outside as an athlete. I usually complete three to five hour training rides. It is now just a matter of maintaining the condition and keeping it moving. I just see it as a longer winter period. The season will be very long.”
Majka is not always motivated to start training, the former Tour KOM said: “But I can handle this situation quite well. Fortunately, I can still train outside, otherwise it would be much more difficult.”
Majka at the Giro:
Giro Rosa in September?
The UCI intends to give the most important women’s races a new place on the calendar, according to the female branch of cycling union CPA. These include the Giro Rosa and the Trofeo Alfredo Binda.
The UCI recently announced broadly how the second half of the season could be for the men, but a detailed plan for women’s cycling is currently lacking, much to the disappointment of the women’s union; The Cyclists’ Alliance and the top riders within the women’s peloton.
Audrey Cordon-Ragot, Ellen van Dijk, Leah Kirchmann, Ariane Luthi, Christine Majerus, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, Amanda Spratt and Marianne Vos joined forces and wrote a letter to the UCI. They request the UCI to discuss the corona crisis and the approach to the women’s race calendar with the women’s peloton, through The Cyclists’ Alliance.
“It is more important than ever that The Cyclists’ Alliance, like other stakeholders in sport, is actively approached by the UCI,” wrote the eight women in an open letter, “to ensure that women’s cycling is fully represented and that the impact on the riders comes first in every decision.”
The UCI is now busy also rescheduling all major women’s races. The organisation of the Giro Rosa wants to hold the 31st edition of the stage race from September 4 to 13. The Trofeo Alfredo Binda hopes for a new date in August, but it is not yet clear whether it is feasible from an organisational and calendar point of view.
Annemiek Van Vleuten in pink on stage 10 of the Giro d’Italia Internazionale Femminile 2018:
Tour of Madrid is Definitely Canceled
The Tour of Madrid will not run this year. The Federación Madrileña de Ciclismo wanted to organise the stage race from September 17 to 20, but that was before the Tour de France moved to late August and September.
The Tour of Madrid didn’t run on its original date of May 7-10 due to the measures regarding the corona virus, but the organisation already had a new date in mind for the 34th edition. However, the UCI recently announced that the Tour de France will take place from August 29 to September 20. “The Tour of Madrid cannot compete against the Tour.”
“This means that we will get less media attention, while fewer top teams will participate in the competition. We will not organise a race this year, partly because it is uncertain whether we can still race this season due to the corona crisis.” The organisation also announced that it will focus on the 2021 edition.
The Tour of Madrid was won last year by Frenchman Clément Russo (Arkéa-Samsic):
Cyclocross and Classics on the Same Day?
Flemish cyclocross organisers see no problem in organising cyclocross races on days when classics will also be ridden, according to Sporza: “That can go together perfectly.”
When the corona virus allows it, it looks like a busy autumn. Road races will overlap with the cyclocross season throughout Europe. “It remains to be seen how the coronavirus evolves, public health is a priority,” Christophe Impens from Golazo told the sports channel. Golazo organises, among other things, the DVV trophy. “If the government allows prices again, we will first see what the road calendar looks like. The cross calendar is in principle fixed, but fitting that puzzle is certainly not unfeasible.”
In the motocross world, they are open to changes, such as changing the start time. “Shifting the starting time is an option. We need to discuss this with the TV channels,” said Impens.
Tomas Van Den Spiegel, CEO of Flanders Classics, sees a problem: “It does depend on the daylight, especially for the crosses later this year. Not every cross can do it like in Diegem, with artificial light. But it is in the interest of everyone that we look at what is possible.” At Flanders Classics, they are active both on the road (including the Tour of Flanders and Ghent-Wevelgem) and in the cross (Superprestige and World Cup).
It might be a problem for Van der Poel:
Bora-Hansgrohe Prepared to Race Until Christmas
The Bora-Hansgrohe team is prepared to continue racing well into December. Team boss Ralph Denk said in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that if it can help cycling, the season should continue as long as possible.
For the time being, the Tour de France is scheduled for August 29. Then the Giro and the Vuelta follow, while the classics also have to be fitted in. “The Vuelta could also be raced until December,” said Denk. “We are ready to continue until Christmas. If you can add to the Grand Tours, the five Monuments such as Paris-Roubaix, cycling has been saved. Then we can say at the end of the year: almost everything is fine,” he predicts.
The most important thing, he says, is that the Tour de France will be held. “We achieve 70% of our annual advertising value there. We could still live with only the Tour.”
Bora-Hansgrohe – the team of multi-World champion Peter Sagan – unlike other teams, has not yet made any salary cuts. “We are currently focusing on the Tour de France, but we regularly evaluate the situation with our sponsors. We have great partners who keep their commitments. We decided to pay in full the salaries for the riders and the rest of the staff in April,” he said. “We look at it from month to month. A lot depends on when the season will resume. Today we are only sure of the Tour start on August 29th. But the UCI considers a restart of the season from July 1 possible.”
A hopeful Ralph Denk:
Arkéa-Samsic Extends Rider Contracts Despite Corona Crisis
Despite the uncertain future because of the corona virus, Arkéa-Samsic has renewed two contracts. Élie Gesbert and Thibault Guernalec will remain with the French ProTeam for two more years.
“Cycling consists of values and solidarity. Two words with great significance for me,” said team manager Emmanuel Hubert in a team press release. “This is why I extend the contract with Élie (Gesbert) for two years. He is a young rider that benefits us and I believe in. I am sure he will come back stronger,” Hubert said about the 24-year-old rider, who crashed hard in January during the Majorca Trophy (Pollenca-Andratx).
The hard work of Guernalec (22) is also rewarded with a contract extension. “Like Élie, he is 100% Breton and he is the personification of the future of French cycling. Thibault can become one of the best French riders in the long run. He already showed that with a fourth place in the rankings of the Vuelta a Murcia.” At Arkéa-Samsic, Warren Barguil, Nacer Bouhanni and Nairo Quintana are the big names.
Nairo Quintana has had a good 2020, so far:
Tony Martin Postpones Decision on Retirement
Tony Martin is postponing the decision about continuing his professional career for the time being. The Jumbo-Visma rider had decided this winter to make a decision. He wants to wait a while because of the corona virus.
“The goal was to wait until the spring classics for answers,” said the 34-year-old rider said to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. “What would be the effects of my heavy fall in the Vuelta? How would I survive in the peloton? The decision has been postponed at this time.”
“The entire cycling world is currently in great uncertainty. The teams do not yet know how to get out of this situation economically.” But the German is aware that he must make a decision soon. “Now is not the time to make hasty decisions, but the day will come when the team also wants clarity.”
Bad crash for Tony Martin in the La Vuelta’19:
Movistar manager Unzué: “Froome never had to face a one-on-one duel with Quintana”
Movistar team boss, Eusebio Unzué, has been talking about his rider; Nairo Quintana and Chris Froome. According to Unzué, Froome would have lost to Quintana much more often without the support of his strong teammates. “He never had to face a one-on-one duel.”
“Quintana has collided, just like those who finished second behind Miguel (Indurain), on a rider like Froome, not just Froome but the whole team around him. It was impossible,” he said in an interview with El Leñero.
“The level of Nairo in 2013, 2015 and 2016… The Tour did no justice to him. I think he was the only one who got Froome in trouble. Without his team, Froome would have had a hard time, but he never had to face a one-on-one duel. Practically the only times were during the 15th stage of the Vuelta a España in 2016 and the day after to Formigal. That was an incredible duel. A series of ten-twelve attacks at 40 miles per hour on the Aubisque. That was very impressive.”
On that Vuelta 15th stage, Quintana finished 3 seconds behind stage winner Gianluca Brambilla. Froome had a bad day and lost more than two and a half minutes. Quintana would also eventually win the final overall, his second Grand Tour after the 2014 Giro.
Quintana signed with the French Arkéa-Samsic team for three years.
Froome and Quintana at the Vuelta’16:
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