There has been no shortage of drama in these first months of the return to racing, as 2020 continues to force us to adapt and problem solve. This past month has featured everything from COVID-19 testing woes, safety concerns, and the rescheduling of the World Championships.
We still have experienced some explosive racing despite these challenges. Anyone who tuned into Grand-Prix de Plouay, the European Championships and La Course this year were treated to some great entertainment! It is encouraging that these races were also televised, showcasing everything women’s cycling has to offer. The announcement of a future women’s Tour de France in 2022 is also a positive step forward, as we have all waited for La Course to be extended from a single day of racing for some time now.
As racing resumes, individual COVID-19 testing is necessary to maintain a safe racing bubble, however, we are still working through some issues with this new and necessary protocol. Several false positives have prevented riders and teams from taking part in races. There have also been issues with test results not being received in time to allow a rider to take part in an event. This was almost the case for me before GP Plouay, as our team doctor had to scramble to get my test results back in time. It was only at 10 pm the night before an early morning start that my test results were confirmed. Half of the Mitchelton-Scott team experienced the same issue with missing test results, but were not so lucky, resulting in riders sitting out of the race completely. The testing protocols are not easy to follow, and do have some issues, but they are still necessary to compete safely at this time.
An important topic I would like to address is the issue of safety in races. This issue was highlighted in the last weeks of racing, with several serious crashes, such as the example of Fabio Jakobson in a sprint finish, Remco Evenepoel crashing off a bridge, and Max Schachmann colliding with a car that drove onto a race course in Italy. The sport is dangerous enough as it is without the extra risks posed by course design and security problems. Riders are of course responsible for making good decisions in races, but we need events to be organized to minimize these unnecessary risks. The case of a car driving onto the course is especially angering, as one of my young Sunweb teammates, Edo Maas was paralyzed last year after this same type of incident happened in il Piccolo Lombardia. Personally, I believe that we need an independent organization in charge of race safety and course inspection. It appears that the UCI and race organizers hear the message coming from teams and riders, so I hope this pushes for systematic change to come out of this period.
On a more positive note, the World Championships are rescheduled to be held in Imola, Italy at the end of September. Countries normally book hotels a year in advance, and spend months figuring out logistics, so it will be interesting to see how these Championships come together at the last moment. The ability to adapt and make new plans is all in the spirit of 2020! I am focused on taking each race opportunity as it comes and going with the flow. At least with the Worlds in Italy, my pasta count will be impressive when combined with the nine days at the Giro!
Next stop for me will be Italy for the Giro Rosa.
You can follow me on Instagram @leahkirchmann or Twitter @L_Kirch for adventures over in Italy.
Photos: Cor Vos/Leah Kirchmann