May 14, 2021

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Cycling from below worried about its future

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World champion for the number of cycling races organized on its territory, France will lose its crown. Since the beginning of April and until mid-May, hardly any races have taken place or will take place. Much has been said about the cancellation of Paris-Roubaix, deleted unlike the neighboring classics, Tour des Flandres or Flèche Wallonne, but this decision has mainly impacted the organizer ASO, also owner of the Tour de France which is not threatened.

The big first division teams, known as the UCI World Tour, have had plenty to do elsewhere, on the Italian and Belgian classics, at the Tour du Pays Basque (Spanish) or this week at the Tour de Romandie, in Switzerland. The three major national formations AG2R- Citroën, Groupama FDJ and Cofidis, were able to revise their calendar without too much damage. It is more problematic for the second professional level, says Pro Team, where B & B Hotels, Delko, Arkéa-Samsic and Total Direct Énergie emerge. Their managers had to send their champions registered on the canceled French circuit to distant races, burdening the accounts with travel expenses.

Six weeks without races

But for the third and fourth divisions, pro and or semi-pro, evolving almost exclusively on the roads of France, the situation is clearly dramatic. “My riders have been at a standstill since April 4 and they are registered for the Tro Bro Leon (Finistère tour) which will hopefully take place on May 16. Six weeks of training without running, it’s hard for morale ”, explains Stéphane Javalet, sports director of Saint-Michel-Auber training, who lives on the partnership with the city of Aubervilliers and the Breton biscuit manufacturer. “The cancellation of the four days of Dunkirk is hard to swallow for our partner who was counting on the display of the live broadcast on the Équipe channel. “

And what about the twelve teams of National Division 1, the equivalent of the fourth division, which constitutes the breeding ground for the great riders of tomorrow? These are at a standstill without the possibility of showing their talents to potential recruiters. For some like Jérémy Leveau, member of the Xelliss Roubaix Lille Métropole training course and without a contract for 2022, time is running out. The commitments for next season are already underway and he explains in West France “Need a big bang to sign upstairs.”

An advantage for foreign runners

It will inevitably be more difficult for him than for foreigners of comparable caliber. “We are going to see our guys fight against runners of their level who will not have stopped racing”, continues Stéphane Javalet. Last year, French professional runners were the only ones to be deprived of training during the first confinement, other governments having allowed an exception for solo outings.

This double sporting and economic penalty led the National Cycling League (LNC) to alert the public authorities through a letter addressed to President Emmanuel Macron. “By order of the prefectures, we are facing a sudden end to professional competitions in France and at the same time, our European neighbors have not renounced the principle of the continuity of professional sport, thus creating serious distortions, both sporting and financial, detrimental to the organizers, teams and runners of our country ”, deplores the LNC.

To support its letter, the Cycling League highlights the health protocols that have proven their effectiveness in races around the world, including the last Tour de France. Unlike team sports, largely impacted by the Covid-19, cycling has been pretty much spared and the rare alerts have been managed effectively. “We are proud to have with us the reigning world champion, Julian Alaphilippe, to have the greatest world event, the Tour de France, continue the authors of the letter. Unfortunately behind these beautiful windows hides a less pleasing reality ”.

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