Monthly Archives: April 2020

Tour could still go ahead as Vuelta cancels race start

Tour de France
British Team Ineos (formerly Team Sky) have won the past five Tours

The Tour de France could still go ahead despite more sanctions on mass gatherings by the French government.

Cycling’s biggest race was set to start two months late, on 29 August, because of coronavirus, but the government ban has extended until September.

“The Tour de France has not been called into question,” said French sports minister Roxana Maracineanu.

The Vuelta a Espana also announced it would cancel its departure from the Netherlands, set for 14 August.

Maracineanu added: “There will not be any large gatherings before September but with the Tour starting on 29 August, there could be adjustments. It is up to [organisers] ASO to make some suggestions.”

ASO chose not to comment.

The Tour, won by Team Ineos’ Egan Bernal last year, was originally scheduled to run from 27 June to 19 July.

Many large-scale sporting events scheduled to take place this summer have either been called off, such as Wimbledon, or pushed back by a year, such as football’s European Championship and the summer Olympics.

The Vuelta, also run by Tour organisers ASO, was scheduled to set off from Utrecht but that leg of the three-week event has been cancelled. The race will now run across 18 stages – three fewer than planned – starting in the Basque country, northern Spain.

Cycling’s governing body the UCI was expected to release a revised calendar for the men’s and women’s road cycling 2020 season on Wednesday, but have pushed that date back to 5 May.

Four-time winner Chris Froome is set to return at this year’s Tour, which will start in Nice, after he missed the 2019 race following a high-speed accident in which he broke his neck, femur, elbow, hip and ribs.

Alongside the Tour and the Vuelta, the remaining Grand Tour race – the Giro d’Italia – also awaits rescheduling after being postponed from its May start date in Hungary.

The women’s version of the Tour de France, La Course by le Tour de France, was initially scheduled to take place over one day on 19 July on the Champs Elysees in Paris.

But organiser ASO said it will also be postponed and instead take place “during the Tour de France 2020″.

The Road World Championships, which will be held in Switzerland, remain in their 20-27 September slot.

The postponed ‘monument’ one-day races – Milan-San Remo, Liege-Bastonge-Liege, Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix – “will all take place this season, at dates still to be defined”, said the UCI.

On 10 April, the UCI furloughed staff and cut the salaries of senior employees as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Pete Mitchell: British cyclist incorporates toddler into workout

British cyclist Pete Mitchell demonstrates that keeping a toddler entertained and doing a workout can be managed at the same time.

WATCH MORE: Easy-to-follow 10-minute home workouts: Number 10 – side stretch

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Ciara Oliva is giving NHS staff free pilates classes to try to help them ‘switch off’

British Olympic track cyclist Ciara Oliva (nee Horne) is offering free pilates classes to NHS staff to try to help health workers “switch off” during the coronavirus pandemic.

The 30-year-old pilates instructor – Team GB’s reserve as they won 2016 Olympic Team Pursuit gold – has taken her business online, with people tuning in to her classes from all over the world.

The double European Team Pursuit Champion balances her pilates instruction with her job as a physiotherapist for the NHS.

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Tour de France: 2018 winner Geraint Thomas welcomes postponement

Geraint Thomas
Geraint Thomas (R) finished second at the 2019 Tour de France behind Ineos team-mate Egan Bernal (C)

Geraint Thomas says he welcomes the Tour de France being postponed until August and September because of the coronavirus epidemic.

Cycling’s biggest event, won by Team Ineos’ Egan Bernal last year, was originally scheduled to run from 27 June to 19 July.

It will now start on 29 August and finish on 20 September in Paris.

“It’s great news. If it can still go ahead, that’s fantastic for the sport,” said Thomas.

Thomas won the 2018 Tour de France and finished runner-up last year behind Ineos team-mate Bernal.

“We heavily rely on (the Tour) to do our jobs really and it’s also good for the fans you know,” said Thomas.

“I’ve really missed watching rugby and football games so I think if it can return, and we can all get back to racing, I think it’s great all round.

“It will be a great showcase of getting over a challenging and horrible period for the whole world.

“It’s just crazy how this has all developed and yeah it would be great to do it. There’s still a bit of uncertainty in there because of the the way the last few weeks have gone.

“It’s good to have that date in your head and you can really start to work towards that. Once we get back training on the roads like normal it will be a great feeling.”

Geraint Thomas
Geraint Thomas finished second at the 2019 Tour de France, having won the prestigious race in 2018

Cycling’s two other three-week Grand Tour races have also been rescheduled for later this year, as part of a plan by the UCI to stage all major cycling races this season.

The Giro d’Italia – which was scheduled to take place in May – and the Vuelta a Espana, originally set for September, will now be raced after September’s World Championships.

The championships, which will be held in Switzerland, remain in their 20-27 September slot, which means the Tour de France will finish on the same day that the week-long championships begin so there could be a significant clash.

“That is a big dilemma,” said Thomas.

“Once we get clarity that races can go ahead then there’ll be a process of negotiating between the governing bodies, race organisers, teams and trying to get the best programme that works for everyone.

“From my point of my view and a lot of riders I have spoken to, I think the main thing is if the Tour can go ahead, that’s sort of like the pinnacle of the sport and that’s why sponsors come into the sport, it’s because of that race.”

With Team Ineos unable to race competitively or train together, Thomas has returned to Cardiff with wife Sara and six-month-old son Macs and has taken on a charity ride to raise money for the NHS,.

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Olympics: Care more for Team GB athletes or have funding cut, Callum Skinner warns

Callum Skinner with his Olympic medals
Callum Skinner felt discarded by British Cycling after stepping away from the sport

Olympic cycling champion Callum Skinner says Team GB sports risk having their funding withdrawn if they do not provide better care for their athletes.

Skinner believes too many are left poorly prepared for life after sport after dedicating their lives to it.

The 27-year-old Scot felt “discarded” by British Cycling when he stepped away from the sport last year.

“The governing bodies in the UK need to do a better job by the athletes,” Skinner told BBC Scotland.

“All of them have worth after sport. It’s just about trying to unlock that potential as best as possible.

“We are funded by public and private funds and, if we end up with too many casualties along the way, a lot of these public and private bodies will be questioning why they should be putting money into such a system.”

Skinner now fronts the Global Athlete movement that seeks to give a voice to athletes around the world and represent their interests to governing bodies.

“Even from a performance perspective, it’s in these organisations’ interests to try to transition their athletes out of the sport effectively to show they have societal worth afterwards in order that the money to push for medals can keep coming,” he said.

“It’s not only ethically the right thing to do, it’s the right thing to do for long-term sustained performance as well.”

Having won gold in the team sprint and silver in the individual sprint at the Rio Olympics in 2016 for Team GB, and a bronze for Scotland at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, Skinner announced his retirement from cycling last year.

“I felt pretty quickly discarded from British Cycling when I was open about my mental health issues,” he said.

“I didn’t really find a system that was compassionate or caring in that instance, which I find quite disappointing having been in that system for 10 years.

“Most of that time I was in good health and delivering winning results and winning performances. To then go in and ask for a three-month break and have that denied was quite tough.”

In May 2019, British Cycling launched a new mental health strategyexternal-link which aimed to “shift the focus to a proactive approach of educating our coaches and support staff to allow for better understanding, toleration, containment and ultimately decreasing the prevalence and impact of challenging behaviours and mental distress.”

Skinner believes the British Olympic system generally has not adapted to the changing profile of its emerging athletes.

“The UK sport system is finding itself in a tricky phase of its evolution,” he said. “When the system first started in the ’90s, I think often you would be bringing in athletes who had gone to university or had a trade and were a little bit older.

“What we’ve seen recently is the average demographic of the athletes become far younger, arguably less educated, and as a result some of them end up really struggling when they come out of sport.

“Essentially all they can put on a CV about what they’ve done from the age of 14 to 25 or 28 or 32 is that they were a professional athlete. Some employers unfortunately find it quite hard to see the value in that.”

Skinner says particular focus and support should be given to those athletes who give many years to their sport but ultimately come up short in their ambitions.

“It’s even tougher for those that don’t make it,” he added. “I won’t deny having an Olympic gold medal helps to open a few more doors than otherwise would be open for you.”

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