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'For now, planning is useless' says Groupama-FDJ boss Marc Madiot

Groupama-FDJ boss Marc Madiot
Groupama-FDJ boss Marc Madiot (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

With the race cancellations continuing to come thick and fast due to the coronavirus, Groupama-FDJ manager Marc Madiot agrees that postponing or cancelling sports events is the only way forward in the current climate, but says that the uncertainty of when racing will recommence is what makes things tough within the professional cycling community.

As part of an interview published on his team's website, Madiot explained that many of his Groupama-FDJ riders had intentionally followed a light January/February race programme in order to try to hit the ground running for the bigger events in March.

"It was a choice made on sporting criteria, and when we thought we would start to be very competitive, we ended up stopping," he said of the current situation. "Apart from some riders who did eight-to-10 days of racing, the others have three or four, or even zero in the case of William Bonnet.

"We were starting to be quite good nonetheless. We eventually got on track for Paris-Nice, as we did at the UAE Tour with David Gaudu [fourth overall at the UAE Tour] and Arnaud Démare [third on stage 2]," continued Madiot, whose riders were among those kept for an extended period at their hotel in Abu Dhabi when the UAE Tour was halted with two stages still to go following the announcement of two members of the race entourage having tested positive for the coronavirus.

At Paris-Nice – which concluded on Saturday, with Sunday's final stage having been cancelled – th eteam's Thibaut Pinot finished fifth overall, while Rudy Molard was seventh.

"Our leaders were getting to their best shape," said Madiot. "It at least confirmed that we'd made the right choice in the season preparation."

Now, however, things are different, with the situation changing daily. Two of the sport's biggest one-day races – the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix – are extremely unlikely to take place in early April, May's Giro d'Italia has been postponed, and a host of other spring races having either been cancelled or postponed, including Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo and Gent-Wevelgem.

"Sports authorities will line up behind what international governments say," Madiot said. "I don't want to say it's a second 'winter break'. For now, we’re just going to try to be pragmatic.

"The next 15 days will be decisive for the future," he said. "But the most important thing today is the virus spread… For now, planning is useless, because we are likely to be disappointed, and I do not want to give ourselves false hope.

"We've had some strange experiences in these past two weeks. We'll therefore take stock and give ourselves two weeks to assess the overall situation. From there, we'll potentially have an idea about how things could evolve."

'The most disturbing thing is the uncertainty that comes with it'

During the upcoming period without competition, Madiot said that it would be a case of having to offer the team's riders "moral support, more than anything else, since we can no longer get together to train or race".

"We'll make sure that the riders can continue to train on a daily basis, and they will do it on the rollers [home trainers] if, like in Italy or Spain, they're forbidden to go outside," he said.

"The most disturbing thing, actually, is the uncertainty that comes with it," Madiot said. "When you know that you're off for two or three weeks, it's quite simple to handle. The concern here is that we don't know how long it will be.

"If we want to be optimistic, we can tell ourselves that everything will restart in three weeks, but the truth is, it could take much longer," he said. "The season will inevitably resume at some point. But when? How? It's impossible to know at this point.

"In any case, cycling is often a reflection of society. That will be the case again this time. We will resume when society has got back to normal as well.

"And the Tour de France is not spared," he said of what has become the elephant in the room, with an earlier start date this year of June 27 due to the Olympics, which could in turn be in danger of being postponed or cancelled.

"Those who think they know what will happen are very clever," said Madiot. "For now, I want to remain practical. Let's do things the right way; let's put us in stand-by mode and do what we're asked to do for at least the next two weeks."