Warning of two-speed Tour de France if some riders train outdoors during Covid-19 lockdown

Groupama-FDJ's 2020 squad (Image credit: Groupama-FDJ)

Groupama-FDJ's performance director Frédéric Grappe has called for uniformity among professional riders during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, warning that "If some people can continue riding outside, we will have a two-speed Tour de France."

With the list of races postponed or cancelled now stretching into June and the Giro d'Italia postponed, most teams have closed down operations and told their riders to take a break from intense training.

Different nations, however, are at different points in the fight against coronavirus. Spain, Andorra and France have banned training outdoors on public roads and Italian professionals have also stopped training outdoors after initially having a special permission because it was deemed to be part of their job.

In contrast, riders in Belgium, the Netherlands, Britain, the USA and elsewhere are currently allowed to train outdoors.

Riding outdoors is widely seen as setting a bad example, with illness or injury possibly taking up medical resources that could be used to treat coronavirus cases now or in the future. However, Oliver Naesen rode a 365km loop of Flanders this week and Chris Froome continues to train outdoors in South Africa with Ineos teammate Dylan van Baarle, posting about his long rides on social media.

In Colombia, Egan Bernal has set a good example by only training indoors and promoting the simple steps needed to help reduce the spread of Covid-19 on social media. The Mouvement pour un Cyclisme Credible (MPCC) association called on its members to set the right example and put public health first before their sporting ambitions.

There is hope professional racing will resume in the summer if social distancing and other action can help reduce the number of coronavirus cases. Riders will need to eventually train for their return to racing and perhaps ride other races before tacking the Tour de France, Vuelta a Espana or Giro d'Italia.

Grappe and other riders and teams are concerned about some riders and nations having an unfair advantage by being able to train in the weeks ahead.

"We can't hide fall back onto our home trainers. If some people can continue riding outside, we will have a two-speed Tour de France," Grappe told L'Equipe (opens in new tab).

Groupama-FDJ team manager and head of the French Ligue nationale de cyclisme professionnel (LNC) Marc Madiot warned: "A Tour de France with French riders not up to par would be catastrophic," adding: "You can't reopen the doors at once and say: 'Everyone in the arena!'"

The UCI is apparently considering all the different aspect as it tries to design a new 2020 race calendar but faces some hard decisions due to the number of races already on the calendar in the second half of the season and those that have been postponed. Teams are ready to race more and run triple programmes in a packed second half of the season but will refuse to over-race their riders and staff.

Grappe wants a 'no racing' period after any restrictions on outdoor riding are lifted, so that riders can train adequately before they start racing again.

"We will see a pitiful spectacle and we will not respect the public if we proceed in this way (with a unregulated return to racing). And what about sporting fair play?" he asked.

"The only way to do it fairly is to have a no-race period. Training loads have to be gradually increased. A block of work to rebuild basic competitiveness last about four weeks. It takes at least that to get back to an equal level of fitness among riders."

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Stephen Farrand
Head of News

Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has been Head of News at Cyclingnews since 2022, before which he held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and CyclingWeekly, among other publications.