'At the end of the day, we are just racing bikes and something much bigger is happening in the world'

Australian Jack Haig says it's a mental challenge not knowing when he'll next race, saying "as athletes, we have lost our purpose,”

(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

Mitchelton-Scott rider Jack Haig has admitted that he has lost his motive, with the cycling season facing potential wipeout because of the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

All UCI-level racing has been suspended until at least the end of April, while the Giro d’Italia has already announced that it will not run in May – Italy currently being the worst affected country by the deadly outbreak.

Scientists and governments are predicting that measures to curb the spread and impact of the virus will last into the summer, meaning bike racing may not return until June at the earliest.

Speaking to Cycling Weekly from Andorra on day one of a not-quite-official-but-near-enough Coronavirus-induced lockdown, Haig offered his assessment of the world around us. “I think we are living through a historic time in human history, to be honest.”

Sport may be insignificant right now, but its absence is having a profound effect on its performers.

“As athletes, we have lost our purpose,” Haig, who in a world without complications would have ridden Paris-Nice last week, said. “We don’t have goals and objects any more. It can be incredibly mentally hard.

>>> This pro rider and qualified doctor is helping treat coronavirus patients

“As an athlete this isn’t a very good situation to be in, having all this unknown. This is the hardest thing.

“We have gone through our entire career always having goals, always having something to work towards, but now no one knows when the next event will be.

Jack Haig took his first victory of 2020 at the Ruta del Sol (Photo : KARLIS / SUNADA)
(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

“It could be a two-week Giro in the middle of May, or the Tour de France in July. Who knows? What does a cyclist without a race to race do at home in quarantine? “That’s the problem we’re running into,” Haig, who finished second at both the Ruta del Sol and Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana in February, added.

“It’s hard to have any kind of focus, and it’s compounded by not being allowed to go outside.

“There’s a few pros here in Andorra and we’re going to propose to the Government that we can train outside.

“You could talk to the entire pro peloton and only one percent would say that they could do over three-and-a-half hours on the ergo inside.

“Today I rode two hours on Zwift, not doing intervals, just riding along. I have to keep the muscle memory there but I don’t need to be killing myself doing massive intervals of six hour rides on Zwift.

“I can’t sit on the sofa and watch Netflix for two weeks, but if I put on a kilo or two I have to understand that I’m not racing. The important thing is staying consistent and staying in touch with your fitness but not smashing yourself.”

Haig was hoping for a podium place at Paris-Nice, but his team withdrew from competition. He backed the team’s decision completely and thinks the UCI was wrong for allowing the race to go ahead.

He continued: “They should have taken the big step and called it off. They were racing on Saturday when all of Italy was shut down and it was announced that Spain was entering lockdown. It seems ridiculous.

“At the end of the day, we are just racing bikes and something much bigger is happening out in the world.

“Figuring out who can ride a bike fastest from Paris to Nice isn’t the biggest issue in the world. That can wait for next year. It doesn’t reflect very well on the sport.”

Haig wants the governing body to take a bolder stance to give some perspicuity and, if possible, help to reinject some purpose.

He floated the idea of a virtual races on Zwift having more significance, something that would be fun and give sponsors publicity.

“The length of time without racing is unknown and it’s a big issue,” he added. “If the UCI said we aren’t racing until June then that gives teams time to plan, it gives sponsors time to think how they can get a return on their investment and publicity, and it gives us riders a bit of clarity.

“It’s very hard to know how much mental energy and pressure to put on yourself because you don’t know when the next goal is.

“The cycling season is long. If you go into lockdown and you’re super focused and do two sessions a day on the rollers, count the calories you eat but don’t race for three months, then you’re burning your energy and mental fatigue.

“It’s going to be hard to find the right balance because we don’t know the date we’ll come back.”

Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Chris Marshall-Bell

Chris first started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2013 on work experience and has since become a regular name in the magazine and on the website. Reporting from races, long interviews with riders from the peloton and riding features drive his love of writing about all things two wheels.

Probably a bit too obsessed with mountains, he was previously found playing and guiding in the Canadian Rockies, and now mostly lives in the Val d’Aran in the Spanish Pyrenees where he’s a ski instructor in the winter and cycling guide in the summer. He almost certainly holds the record for the most number of interviews conducted from snowy mountains.