British Cycling has insisted it was following government lockdown guidelines after it emerged a 100-person training simulation took place at the Manchester velodrome last week.
The three-day ‘simulated Olympic competition’ coincided with the planned dates of the British National Track Championships, which had been cancelled in December due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It involved 90 Olympic and Paralympic athletes and around 35 coaching staff, with a source close to the track team telling the Observer that athletes were “told not to divulge details”, while riders also deleted images of the velodrome they had posted on Instagram, with news of the event first emerging on social media on Friday evening.
British Cycling clarified that the presence of 90 riders was split over three days and that while some riders travelled from further afield, the majority are Manchester-based and weren’t staying away from home, the National Cycling Centre has also been open since May and where they train regularly.
The event was said to have replicated a World Cup event so that the team could figure out the timings to work to and fine-tune their nutrition and recovery protocols ahead of the Tokyo Games.
“Under the current government guidance, elite training and competition can continue and stringent Covid protocols are being followed at all times, as they always are in our training sessions.” British Cycling’s performance director, Stephen Park, said.
“We acknowledge that as an elite sports team, we are in an extremely privileged position to be able to continue with our operations, and the race simulation activity forms part of our strategy to ensure we are on track to achieve our ambitions in Tokyo.”
All athletes were tested before entering the velodrome and also required to leave if they were not warming up, racing, or warming down. The highest number of riders on the track at any one time was 18 for the madison. Government guidelines state a maximum of 180 people is allowed in the velodrome at any one time.
While there is no limit on the number of riders and support staff allowed to be present for training purposes, guidelines urge only essential members to be in attendance.