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Matt White: I fear for the future of some of the smaller races

Matt White of Mitchelton-Scott
Matt White of Mitchelton-Scott (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

While the cycling world comes to terms with the fact that there will no Classics this spring and that the Giro d’Italia must find an alternative date later in the year, Matt White has shown his concern over some of the smaller races on the calendar.

The Mitchelton-Scott team boss is currently waiting to see what the new UCI calendar will look like but with the coronavirus still rampaging across Europe and much of the rest of the world even races with secure spots in the second half of the year could face pressure due to economic forces.

“A lot of people are going to come unstuck in general. Not just the bigger races but also some of the smaller races as well," White told Cyclingnews.

“People right now are thinking about the fact we’re not racing the Classics now, but there will be races that are currently locked into the second half of the year but all of sudden the companies that sponsored those events have so much financial stress that they will have to withdraw," White said. 

"I can see a lot of changes in the calendar from now 'till the end of the year. Hopefully, we can reschedule the Giro and the Monuments; they’re what people really want to see. But I hope the small races can survive as well but big or small many will struggle."

The Giro d’Italia is the biggest race that has so far been forced to postpone its 2020 installment. Race organisers RCS Sport are exploring alternative plans for a start later in the year, and White is hopeful that the race can still take place rather than being voided for a season.

“It would be a disaster if there was no Giro in 2020," he said. "They can definitely make it work, but things might need to be adjusted. There’s talk of a different version, maybe of two weeks or 10 days and with locations changed, but regardless  I would love to see a version of the Giro in this calendar year.”

White had hoped that his star GC rider Simon Yates would be lining up for the Giro this year, but like all teams in the WorldTour, the Mitchelton-Scott outfit must shuffle their deck. Much will depend on if the Tour de France takes place in July as that too is under threat by the current pandemic, but assuming racing does begin in June, White predicts a stacked Tour in which a number of Giro leaders switch their primary focus to July.

For now, White’s riders are forced to remain indoors as European countries enforce varying degrees of lockdown measures on the public.

“Between 85 and 90 percent of our team are in lockdown," he said. "They can’t leave the house unless it’s to go to the supermarket. That gives us around five or so athletes who can train without the home trainer for the next 14 days, and that is highly likely to be extended. Most guys are therefore winding down at this stage. They can’t cross-train unless they have a gym in their house. They can ride on Zwift or the home trainer for a period of time, but most big stars are moving the goal line out to the Tour de France.

White expects a lot of big-name riders to swap their calendars.

"That could mean that guys like Simon, Nibali and Carapaz, who were peaking for the Giro, have to change their programmes around, and maybe they end up at the Tour instead. Before anything else, though, we need to see an actual calendar. We’re probably three to four weeks away from that point," he said. 

"For someone like Simon, his big aim was the Olympics, so him possibly competing at the Tour might be a good way to now prepare  without a Giro. However, in order to make any clear plans, we need a calendar to be presented. I would expect a lot of people won’t wait around to just compete in August or September.”

If racing does return in June, the level of competitiveness will be compelling to watch. Riders will be eager to race, but the level of competition will be somewhat of an unknown.

“Everyone will be scrambling for competition,” said White, who like all team managers will be analysing his riders throughout the coming months as they remain at home.

“We have a really good indication of how they’re training," he said. "It’s not as good as racing, but the way they are coached, and through all the data we have we can tell how they’re moving. All we’re missing is that race rhythm. But first things first, my riders need to stay healthy, be able to train on the road and we need a new and adjusted calendar for the remainder of 2020.”