cycling news

Virtual Tour of Flanders: Greg van Avermaet wins online ‘race’

Virtual Tour of Flanders on YouTube

The Virtual Tour of Flanders was streamed live, with links to watch all the participating riders

Belgian Olympic road race champion Greg van Avermaet was crowned as winner of the Virtual Tour of Flanders as 13 riders raced in the one-day event on training bikes in their homes.

The race was scheduled to be held in Belgium on Sunday, but was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Van Avermaet’s compatriot Oliver Naesen beat Ireland’s Nicolas Roche in a sprint finish for second.

The virtual 30km course was streamed live on YouTube.

It covered the final three climbs of the real-life 267.2km route, with live video links to all the participating riders.

“I am happy to be involved with this event, regardless of any results of the day, the key message is that as a sport we are trying to fight this world crisis together,” Roche wrote on Instagram before the event.

“I am happy to support these initiatives that will give everyone a bit of entertainment. We all know nothing will replace the real Flanders.”

Horse racing has also turned to technology this weekend, with a virtual Grand National raising £2.6m for NHS Charities Together.


Roche posted a sign on his Instagram story saying ‘Please do not disturb. Online bike race in progress. (PS no power cuts much appreciated) 15:30-16.45. Thank you in advance.’

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How cycling and motorsport are helping the coronavirus battle

Alex Sims

Sims picked up supplies from Mercedes F1 among other teams

The sporting calendar may have been obliterated for the foreseeable future by the coronavirus pandemic, but some sports people are keeping busy by joining the fight against Covid-19.

Engineers and experts across different sectors of motorsport and cycling have halted their search for racing superiority and are now manufacturing masks and respiratory devices, and producing hand sanitiser.

And Formula E driver Alexander Sims is spending his time collecting personal protection equipment (PPE) stock from UK-based motorsport teams and delivering them to hospitals.

“The most things we’ve got is gloves,” he told BBC Sport. “Around 300-350 pairs, as well as a couple of hundred all-in-one suits, cleansing wipes and hand sanitiser.

“It’s a little bit of a mis-match because you’re just taking what some teams have got in stock. But I’ve got a very nice response from those teams that have just donated whatever they’ve got.”

The idea came from Andrea Ackroyd – Sims’ performance engineer at the Formula E team BMW iAndretti. Ackroyd’s sister works for the NHS.

Sims added: “She was just explaining the dire situation they’re in, in terms of PPE. She’s the brains behind this – I’m just the one with a bit of time on my hands to try and organise it, send out some emails, contact people and pick it up, wearing my own gloves and trying to be safe in the process and looking at the bigger picture.

“It made a lot of sense to me to try and get involved and do my bit.”

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Great Britain’s Alexander Sims takes first ever Formula E victory in Diriyah

Bringing engineering expertise to coronavirus fight

While seven Formula 1 teams work with the UK government to find ways to develop and supply much-needed ventilators and Mercedes collaborate to create their own breathing systems, there are other racing teams determined to make their mark too.

Formula E is the world’s first ‘green’ all-electric racing series, which has seen its racing calendar suspended along with almost all other sports.

Engineer Alberto Blanco from Mahindra team – Indian-owned but based in Banbury in Oxfordshire – is leading a new project designing a ventilator with Mahindra and Chinese team Nio333’s technology partner QEV Technologies.

QEV, a Barcelona-based electrical racing research and development company, is importing ventilators from China and donating them to local Spanish hospitals, while redeploying 14 engineers to research and design a new prototype ventilator.

Blanco told BBC Sport: “It’s incredible and unacceptable that some hospitals and other health centres don’t even have the most basic material weeks after the infection started.”

Engineers are using 3D printers to produce face shields which have been tested at a hospital in Barcelona already, with “thousands” expected to be rolled out in Spain in the coming days.


Alberto Blanco says “trying to help in this crisis is not something to be proud of, this is simply something we must do”

According to statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) 80% of people with Covid-19 recover without needing hospital treatment, but one person in six becomes seriously ill and can develop breathing difficulties.

To help hospitals cope with increased ventilator usage, the team have started producing bifurcators (a little like a junction) using 3D printers.

These create two airflows and mean each ventilator can serve more than one patient at a time – doubling the capacity of those already in use in hospitals across Spain.

Blanco said: “The philosophy of the Formula E championship is always looking at ways to make this world better. In our races we need to strategically manage the available energy to be as fast as possible, now it’s time to manage our personal energy to stay strong and slow down the virus until we can finally beat it.

“Our heroes, and many others that will struggle in this situation, deserve all our support.”

From rainbow stripes to washable masks


Dane Mads Pedersen currently wears the legendary rainbow jersey in cycling

One of the worst affected areas of northern Italy, in Lallio near Bergamo, is a heartland of cycling.

Santini, the historic family-run producers of the famous cycling World Championship rainbow jerseys, have turned their resources to manufacturing reusable masks for Italy.

The country remains in a complete lockdown as a measure to slow the spread of the virus. The northern region of Lombardy has seen the highest number of deaths so far, with Italy’s total standing at 13,155 deaths on Wednesday.

A prototype was tested by authorities in Milan, and the production line began last week with the capacity to make up to 10,000 washable masks a day.

Paola Santini, marketing director and daughter of the company founder Pietro, told the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) that when the standards and criteria to produce protective masks were released, they felt they had to get involved.

“The aim was to give the opportunity to other manufacturers to create a product that can no longer be found. I looked at my sister and we said to each other ‘Let’s see if we can do something’. We live in the eye of the storm, we feel this emergency on our skin.

“Our prototype is reusable, sterilisable and washable up to 90-95C with the integrity of the fabric being guaranteed for use up to 10 times. It is made of dense and very compact polyester fabric, which makes the mask completely waterproof.”

And of the cost? She said: “We decided to put a price that only covers the cost of the technical fabric – high quality and Italian – and production.”

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The factory switching from race cars to ventilators

A hand sanitiser factory built in 10 days?

Chemical giant Ineos, which sponsors cycling’s Team Ineos, last week announced an ambitious project to build a new factory near Middlesbrough within 10 days to manufacture up to one million bottles of hand sanitiser per month.

The UK company said it intends to replicate its new factory in Germany and will donate the supply to the NHS, as well as restocking near-empty supermarket shelves.

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Olympics postponement is ‘great opportunity’ to boost GB cyclists’ medal chances

Great Britain

Great Britain won just one gold medal at this year’s Track Cycling World Championships

The Olympic Games postponement is a great opportunity to boost GB’s medal chances in 2021, says British Cycling’s performance director Stephen Park.

The Games will now start on 23 July next year after being delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

GB have topped cycling’s medal table at the past three Games, but at February’s Track Cycling Worlds they registered their smallest return since 2000.

“We’re really disappointed that 2020 is not going to happen but there’s a feeling also that this extra 12 months is just what we need,” said Park.

In Berlin, Elinor Barker won the team’s only gold in the points race while the men’s sprint took silver behind the Netherlands and the team pursuit riders missed the podium as Denmark smashed the world record on the way to gold.

GB finished seventh overall which prompted six-time Olympic track cycling gold medallist Sir Chris Hoy to call for “significant change”.

“We’re really disappointed that 2020 is not going to happen, so we haven’t breathed a sigh of relief,” added Park.

“But it would be fair to say, yes, we do now have the opportunity to adapt training and set new expectations.

“Jason Kenny, who has the chance to become Great Britain’s most successful Olympian, is now saying ‘hang on, if we continue to progress [in the team sprint] over the next 12 months the way we have been, then we’re going to be in front of the Dutch.”

“Ed Clancy was due to retire after the summer but he too is thinking there’s enough time to do the work required in the team pursuit.”

The extra year will also give Laura Kenny the chance to recover properly from the injuries she sustained in various crashes at the World Championships.

“Laura is one of the best, if not the best in the world. Now it gives her some really good time to recover from those hard knocks,” said Park.

“Rather than feel she was on the back foot, she now feels she can give her body a chance to recover and be at her best in 2021.”

Progress is likely, however, to depend on coronavirus-related restrictions being lifted so that Park’s riders can once again use the National Cycling Centre facilities.

“There’s quite a big gym programme in addition to the track time, using a lot of specialist machinery, and there needs to be staff supervision to make sure it’s done effectively,” added Park.

“So, although we’ve done a pretty good job of making sure our riders have access to weights at home in addition to their daily rides, it is quite different to how it would be at the National Cycling Centre.”

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The madison, omnium and other track cycling events explained

Elinor Barker

Elinor Barker won Great Britain’s sole gold medal at the 2019 Track Cycling World Championships in Pruszkow

Don’t know your madison from your omnium? Confused by the keirin? Wondering just how the points race works?

Here is BBC Sport’s guide to the Track Cycling World Championships in Berlin.

Points race

A mass-start race of 40km (160 laps) for men and 25km (100 laps) for women. Points are scored in intermediate sprints, which are held every 10 laps, with five points for the winner followed by three, two and one for the next three over the line. There are also 20 points on offer for lapping the field.

Tactics vary, with some riders sitting at the back to conserve energy and contest the intermediate sprints, while others try to gain a lap by breaking off the front and rejoining the back of the main bunch. The winner is the rider with the most points at the end of the race.


Perhaps the most confusing track cycling event to follow, the madison – named after Madison Square Garden in New York, where the event was first held – is similar to the points race but with teams of two riders.

The madison will be included in the Olympic programme at Tokyo 2020 for the first time since 2008, where women will compete in the event for the first time.

Women will race over 30km (120 laps), while the men race 50km (200 laps). Intermediate sprints are held every 10 laps, with five points for the winner followed by three, two and one for the next three over the line – while these points are doubled for the final sprint at the end of the race. Teams can also earn 20 points by gaining a lap on the main bunch.

One rider is always active, while the other continues to ride round, but is effectively ‘resting’ at the top of the track. When the active rider needs a breather, around every lap and a half or so, they ‘hand-sling’ their partner into the action. The best madison duos have an endurance rider capable of gaining a lap and a sprinter to win points.

With all teams racing at the same time, trying to gain a lap on their rivals or win sprints, it is quite an impressive spectacle. The team with the most points at the end of the race is the winner and if there is a draw on points, places in the final sprint determine the winner.


The omnium has had a major overhaul following the Rio 2016 Olympics, changing from a six-race event over two days to a four-race event held on a single day.

All three individual timed events have been dropped. The format now consists of four bunch races, with the scratch, elimination and points races retained alongside the tempo race. This has transformed the omnium into a pure endurance event instead of a test of sprinting and endurance.

Points are accumulated by riders in the first three events – the scratch, tempo and elimination races – with 40 points for the winner, 38 for second, 36 for third and so on.

Each point then won during the final event – the points race – is added to the rider’s points total. The rider with the highest score at the end of the points race is the winner.

  • Scratch race - a 10km (40 lap) race for men and 7.5km (30 lap) race for women, where the winner is the first rider over the line.
  • Tempo race - a 10km (40 lap) race for men and 7.5km (30 lap) race for women, with sprints conducted every lap after the first five laps. The winner of each sprint earns one point and any rider who gains a lap on the bunch earns four points.
  • Elimination race - the last rider to cross the finish line every second lap is eliminated until one rider is left.
  • Points race - 25km (100 laps) for men and 20km (80 laps) for women. Same rules as the individual points race.


Six-time Olympic gold medallist Jason Kenny is competing in Berlin

Team pursuit

The men’s and women’s teams both comprise four riders, racing over 4km. Two teams are on the track at the same time, one starting on the back straight, one on the home straight. The rules are simple – complete the distance in the quickest time possible, or catch your opponents to win.

Drafting is crucial with riders racing millimetres behind each other. The time is stopped when the front wheel of the third rider crosses the line. This allows one member of the team to drop out during the race. Qualifying rounds now feature two teams on the track at once instead of one.

Individual pursuit

A straight race against the clock over 4km for men and 3km for women. As with the team pursuit, one rider starts on the back straight, one on the home straight but they are competing against the clock rather than each other.

The quickest two riders in qualifying contest the final, where to win you must catch the other rider or be first to complete the distance.

Team sprint

The men’s race is a three-lap, three-rider team time trial. After each lap, one rider drops out, leaving one man to race the final lap on his own. The women’s race is a two-lap, two-rider affair.

The quickest eight teams in qualifying proceed to the first competition round and the fastest two teams from that round compete against each other in the final for the gold medal, with the next two fastest going through to race for the bronze medal.


To qualify for the knockout rounds, riders must complete a 200m flying lap in the fastest time possible with 32 progressing.

The time trial is followed by knockout heats – fastest versus slowest. These races are 750m long but only the final 200m are timed, with the winner being the first across the line.

From the quarter finals the riders race best of three heats. The knockout races tend to feature slow, tactical starts, followed by a frenetic finish as two riders race against each other with the first to cross the line winning – the perceived advantage being that the rider coming from behind can draft, using less energy and thus have a better chance of being victorious.

Scratch race

The men race over 15km, the women 10km – the simplest of races. There are no intermediate sprints or points to be won. The winner is the first rider to cross the finish line.


Developed in Japan for gambling purposes, the keirin is a tactical race that starts behind a motorised bike, called a derny, which gradually increases its pace to about 50km/h for men and 45km/h for women, until it pulls off to signal a sprint for the line.

The format has been tweaked following controversy in Rio 2016 men’s final – won by Britain’s Jason Kenny – which had to be restarted twice due to infringements.

The race is now 1.5km (six laps) in total, instead of 2km, but the sprint distance has been increased from two and a half laps to three laps.

Riders now also have to stay behind the leading edge of the front wheel of the derny – rather than the rear edge of the rear wheel – before the pacer pulls off.

Time trial

A 1km race for the men (also known as the kilo) and 500m for the women, with riders going off from a standing start.

Qualifying rounds see two riders on the track at the same time, with the top eight going through. In the finals, each rider competes alone and the quickest time wins.

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World Track Cycling Championships: Laura Kenny misses out on medal in women’s scratch race

Great Britain’s Laura Kenny misses out on a medal in the women’s scratch race by the finest of margins at the Track Cycling World Championships in Berlin.

“I was going full gas and fourth is the worst place you can finish,” Kenny told BBC Four.

Watch live coverage of the Track Cycling World Championships on BBC Two, BBC Four, BBC Red Button, BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport website and app and through Connected TVs from 26 February-1 March.

Available to UK users only.

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