Cycling and coronavirus lockdown: Everything you need to know

As the Covid-19 lockdown continues to cause concern and uncertainty around the world, what do cyclists need to know?

Professional cycling is one of the most international sports in the world, making it particularly susceptible to international events.

The outbreak of coronavirus, or Covid-19, has had a significant impact on the cycling calendar, with races cancelled indefinitely, team staff and riders being diagnosed with the illness and much of the world in lockdown.

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Racing has been suspended until at least August 1 pending developments to the global situation.

This page was last updated May 11, at 17.00pm

Likewise, cyclists around the world are finding they can only do short, solo rides or in the case of those countries like Spain and Italy that have been on full lockdown, confined to the turbo trainer until very recently.

But what has already happened with coronavirus in cycling and what can we expect to happen next? Here is everything you need to know:

What is coronavirus?

According to the World Health Organisation, coronaviruses are a large family of illness ranging from a common cold to more serious conditions like SARS.

Covid-19, also called novel coronavirus, is an infectious disease in this family that has not previously been found in humans before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China in December 2019.

Symptoms are similar to those of pneumonia, with sufferers experiencing fever, tiredness and dry cough. Some patients have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea.

While 80 per cent of people recover from the illness without treatment around one in six people can become seriously ill, while around three per cent of the people with the disease have died.

The virus spread from person to person through coughing or exhaling,

Worldwide, there are around four million cases of Covid-19 with 283,000 deaths being linked to the virus.

Can I still ride my bike?

Image: Chris Catchpole

In short, yes. The government initially ruled that people could only leave their homes for one form of excercise per day after the lockdown was implemented in March.

On May 10 however, it was announced people in England (from May 13) would be encouraged to take as much outdoor excercise as they like, wherever they like. That means you can ride your bike as much as you want.

Scotland and Wales have also lifted restricted limits on the amount of exercise that can be taken, however Wales is still advising that exercise should only be taken locally, starting and finishing at home.

For more information on how much you can rid your bike outside, visit our detailed page here.

Government action

The UK dramatically escalated efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus in March; all non-essential were closed, gatherings of more than two people in public are now banned and all social events are prohibited.

However, bike shops were exempt from the store closures.

The Premier League has cancelled all of its football fixtures for the time being, while the English cricket season has been delayed until at least June. Cycling events have been ruled out by the UCI until at least August, with the UCI revealing a new proposed calendar to resume racing on August 1.

On March 16, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the government was now recommending people avoid gatherings, should work from home if they can, and avoid all “non-essential” travel and contact with others. On March 20 the Prime Minister confirmed instructions that all pubs, clubs, restaurants and cafes should close.

Those with serious health conditions should shield themselves from social contact for 12 weeks from March 16.

If one person in a household is suffering from a persistent cough or a fever, everyone living there must stay at home for 14 days.

They should also avoid leaving the house “even to buy food or essentials” but they can still leave the house for exercise if they maintain a safe distance from others.

On May 10, the governmenent eased its rules on lockdown, saying unlimited exercise could be taken and people could sunbathe and relax in parks. Golf courses are also to reopen. People are allowed to meet up with one person outside of their household, though they must remain two metres apart with social distancing still in place.

Pubs, clubs, restauraunts etc. will remain closed until at least July.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland chose not to follow Westminster’s easing measures meaning the stay home restrictions still apply in those nations.

British Cycling advice

On Tuesday, March 17 the national governing body British Cycling issued an update on it’s policy during the coronavirus outbreak, initially cancelling all its sanctioned cycling activities until April 30.

The body suspended all competitive events, non-competitive events like sportives, recreational rides including HSBC UK Breeze, and all educational courses.

On March 23, British Cycling confirmed it would extend suspension of activites until June 30, 2020.

In a statement, it said:

“With all Government guidance pointing towards a period during which the nation is being urged to come together to fight the spread of the virus, and the unprecedented burden currently on our emergency and public services, we felt that this is the most responsible – and only – course of action we could take at this moment.

“We are acutely aware of the impact that this situation has had on individuals, communities and businesses within cycling and beyond. We’d like to take this opportunity to reinforce that, while we share in the disappointment of those affected by this extended suspension, we will do absolutely everything within our power to ensure that cycling can return with strength and as soon as possible.

“This suspension period will include the dates originally set for several traditional milestones of the competitive cycling calendar. As with the vast majority of sports – while our primary focus will always be health and wellbeing – we will be exploring all options regarding the fulfilment of the racing calendar once sporting events can recommence.

“Our recommendation to our clubs remains that no organised activity (including rides, training, coaching, events) should take place during this period, in line with government advice on social gatherings and non-essential travel.”

Cycling Time Trials

Events sanctioned by Cycling Time Trials, the national TT governing body, have now been cancelled up until the end of June.

A statement from the organisation, released on Tuesday (March 17), said: “In light of the government advice now given, Cycling Time Trials (CTT) has taken the decision to suspend all CTT events, (this includes all Type A and Type B events), with immediate effect up to and including Sunday 31 May 2020.

“The decision will be subject to continued review and has been taken in the interests of organisers, competitors, all those who volunteer their time to make the events “work”, supporters and in the interests of the time trialling community as a whole.

“Where possible, all are encouraged to maintain their own personal fitness and keep active during this time, while following government guidelines about safe distance and safe exercise environments.

“CTT will continue to review and monitor government advice and will provide detailed updates in the coming weeks.”

Audax UK

Long-distance riders will also be affected by the spread of the virus, as the board of national body Audax UK has opted to suspend all calendar, permanent and DIY events with immediate affect until further notice.

A statement from Audax UK on Monday (March 16) said: “Following today’s updated guidance from the government, the Audax UK Board has taken the difficult decision to suspend recognition of all calendar, permanent and DIY events, with immediate effect, until further notice.

“This means that AUK will not validate any rides undertaken from midnight tonight, March 16, until the decision is taken to lift the suspension. Anyone undertaking such rides will not be allocated AUK points or AAA points, their rides will not be counted towards Mileater or Randonneur Round the Year awards, and they will not be covered by AUK’s insurance policy while riding.”

British teams

We’ve already seen plenty of WorldTour teams decide to suspend their racing schedules because of coronavirus, but some British teams are now following suit.

Ribble-Weldtite have announced they will not be riding from Monday (March 16) for an indefinite period so as to no contribute to the spread of the virus.

The team said: “During this extremely difficult time we will work remotely with our riders and partners to engage with our stakeholders and retain fitness and interview in few of the recommencement of the season, we hope at some point during 2020.”

Race cancellations

The peloton during the 2017 Tour of Hainan (Picture: STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Coronavirus first hit the cycling world in late January when the Tour of Hainan was postponed because of the virus.

Organisers of the stage race, held on the Chinese island province just off the nation’s south coast, informed teams that the race will be delayed to a later date because of the spread of the new disease.

Then in early February, two Chinese team pulled out of the Tour de Langkawi while all other riders and staff faced screening for symptoms as part of the effort to contain the spread.

On February 21, the UCI then announced it would be postponing three upcoming Chinese races, the Tour of Chongming Island, the Tour of Zhoushan and the Women’s Tour of Taiyuan, which were scheduled for April and May.

The UAE Tour was abandoned with two stages remaining after two Italian staff members from an unnamed team tested positive for Covid-19.

All Riders including Chris Froome and Mark Cavendish, staff and media in the UAE were confined to their hotels and were all tested.

Most of the people on the race were allowed to leave by Sunday, March 1 but three teams – Groupama-FDJ, Cofidis, and Gazprom-RusVelo – were kept in quarantine in their hotel after six new cases of coronavirus were discovered. The UCI said they would be released by March 14 at the latest.

It was later revealed that Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) also stayed in UAE as he has the virus but is recovering well and has subsequently returned home.

Dmitry Strakhov (Gazprom-RusVelo) also tested positive and has stayed in hospital but is also recovering.

Cancellation of Italian races

Milan – San Remo 2019 (Marco Bertorello/AFP via Getty Images)

The arrival of Covid-19 caused immediate concerns about some of the biggest races on the calendar, as a total of 400 cases were reported by February 25.

Lombardy, the northern region around Milan, and Veneto were the worst-affected areas, which was bad news for the organisers of Milan-San Remo, Tirreno-Adriatico, and the Giro d’Italia.

A huge amount of uncertainty followed in the week leading up to Strade Bianche, with teams concerned about the spread of coronavirus in Italy.

A number of teams announced they would not race the one-day event based around Siena, which resulted in race organiser RCS announcing the men’s and women’s 2020  Strade Bianche would be postponed. The women’s one-day race Trofeo Alfredo Binda was also postponed until June.

The following day, RCS then announced that Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo would be postponed along with the Giro di Sicilia and the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali.

The Giro d’Italia was the next race to be postponed, with other stage races the Volta a Catalunya, Tour de Romandie and Tour de Yorkshire also called off. Paris-Nice was the last stage race to go ahead, but saw the final stage cancelled over the pandemic.

Cancellation of Belgian, French and Dutch races

Jasper Stuyven and Yves Lampaert on the Muur van Gerrardsbergen (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

The Classics are an incredibly important time of year in cycling with the riders taking to the cobbles of Flanders, Wallonia, the Netherlands and France.

Everything looked as if they were going ahead until the second week of March which that saw a landslide of cancellations.

Nokere Koerse, Bredene Koksijde Classic, Driesdaagse De Panne, E3 BinckBank Classic, Ghent-Wevelgem and Dwars Doors Vlaanderen have all been cancelled due to the spread of the virus in Northern Europe.

Along with those Belgian races, the Ronde Van Drenthe in the Netherlands has also been cancelled.

Several smaller French stage races have also been postponed or cancelled, the likes of the Tour de Normandie and the Tour de Bretagne have been called off.

The Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and the Ardennes Classics were then all postponed on March 18 and March 19. The Critérium du Dauphiné and Tour de France were the last to be postponed, with both now set to start in August.

The UCI has rescheduled the dates of major WorldTour race in its latest proposed calendar.

The Olympics

The Olympic Games were postponed on March 24 in a joint decision by the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee.

Japan had over 1,500 confirmed cases of Covid-19 (as of March 29), however the major concern in holding the Olympics in its original July/August slot would be the influx of thousands of people from around the world. Competing athletes are also struggling to properly train with lockdowns across many countries in the world.

The Games, which will still be called Tokyo 2020, will take place between July 23 and August 8, 2021.

UCI response

The on-going impacts of coronavirus on professional cycling prompted a response from the international governing body, the UCI.

After initially stopping events until April 3, a flurry of race cancellations meant cycling’s governing body eventually took the decision to stop events until April 30. It has since revised it’s calendar to recommence on August 1 with the men and women’s Strade Bianche, before concluding in November with the Vuelta a España.

In a statement, the UCI President David Lappartient said: “The international situation linked to the coronavirus has accelerated sharply recently, especially in Europe, which has pushed the authorities to take drastic measures that have a major impact on our sport in particular.

“Faced with this unprecedented and changing situation, we must adapt and take necessary measures to guarantee, as far as possible, the security of people at our events as well as sporting equity. With the strong decisions taken concerning the UCI International Calendar and the Olympic qualification procedure, we are providing the awaited answers for people in our sport.

“The challenges we face in light of the current situation require all members of the cycling family and of the Olympic movement to be innovative, strong and united.”