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Coronavirus lockdown and calendar uncertainty leave French riders in limbo

Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale) (Image credit: Getty Images)

With the entire country in lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, professional cyclists in France find themselves in the same uncertain situation as their fellow citizens, unsure of when life will return to normal.

Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale) raced Paris-Nice earlier this month and was a designated leader for this summer's Tour de France. But now it's unclear when the cycling season will resume and whether La Grande Boucle will take place at all.

"It was one of the priorities of my season, and it still is," Latour told French newspaper Libération on Monday. "Will the race go ahead? We don't know. I hope so. We're living like everybody else: day by day."

Latour is currently in isolation at his home in Romans-sur-Isère – "with my girlfriend, my two chickens and Momo the cat" – and unable to train on the road due to the measures imposed by the French government to curb the spread of Covid-19.

"Fortunately, I'm not putting on weight," he said. "To maintain my form, I'm running a bit in the lanes around my house, and I'm doing a bit of strength work. I should get back on the home trainer this week. They're talking about extending the season to the end of October, which would be a month more than usual for me, so I'll need to be fresh for that."

In the meantime, Latour is filling his days with Netflix, crosswords, video game Fortnite and gardening.

"The other day, I did six hours of gardening," he said. "You could say that I'm lucky. I'm thinking of people who live in small apartments in the city. For them, it's complicated, but, for me, the days are passing more quickly than I expected."

Petit: I've put things in perspective

For Adrien Petit (Total Direct Energie), initial frustration at the postponement of the spring Classics soon gave way to recognition that missing a bike race – even his beloved Paris-Roubaix – was a minor disappointment in the context of a global pandemic.

"I saw the races fall, one by one, on the internet," Petit said. "At the start, I was disgusted. I think of them all year. I trained all winter in the rain for these objectives. But I've put things in perspective: I 'only' ride a bike. This virus has taken on an enormous scope and lives are at stake."

Petit is hopeful that the spring Classics can be salvaged and held later in the season, pointing out that a rider's career is of limited duration.

"It's important because in our careers, which aren't very long, the opportunities to ride cycling's great Monuments are limited," he said. "I've ridden nine editions of Paris-Roubaix in nine seasons, and I'd like to get to 15 or 16."

For the time being, and with all racing suspended until at least the end of April – and likely well beyond – Petit is, as he tells it, in recovery mode.

"In the evening, it's time for an apéritif and family life – life the normal people we never get the opportunity to be," he said. 

"I walk two hours a day in the countryside, 10 kilometres from Arras. When the lockdown is over, I'd certainly be happy to get back on a bike and feel some fresh air – even if it's in pouring rain."