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Marc Madiot reflects as season put on hold

Having followed a light early-season race schedule, Madiot now faces having riders with no race days, and no races in the pipleline.

Long-time French team manager Marc Madiot is just one of many team bosses coming to terms with the complexity of the professional cycling calendar being put on hold due to the coronavirus crisis. And Madiot’s Groupama-FDJ team was one of the first affected when the crisis initially hit the cycling world, when riders and staff were held in confinement after the UAE Tour.

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“It’s really hard for us to judge the first part of the season,” Madiot said in a press release Monday. “We didn’t race a lot in February as we had planned to start the season lightly. As a result, some riders only have eight to ten days of racing in their legs. Some only have three or four days, or in the case of William Bonnet, zero days.”

Yet despite the lack of racing, the team rode strongly in Paris-Nice, with team leader Thibaut Pinot finishing fifth. For Pinot, who stuggled to find his race legs after an early-season altitude camp, a top-five in The Race to the Sun came as nothing less than a success. “I would have signed on right from the start,” Pinot said after the race.

But while the early results were just starting to show promise, the team’s racing calendar like all others, has now been put on hold.

“I can make no projections for the future racing calendar,” Madiot said. “Over the past two weeks, we have been making adjustments in hopes of continuing, only for everything to end up in the trash. Now we just have to get past this point on a sanitary level and then we can see where we’re are at. But right now the everything centers around the growth curve of the virus. All we can do is be pragmatic.”

Madiot says that the next 15 days will be crucial. “To make any projections will be useless. We’ve already examined a plan A,B,C and D over the past weeks. Two weeks from now we can look at everything again, first from a global perspective. And then we may start to have an idea of how things might evolve.”

For Madiot, the biggest problem is the unknown.

“To make it through two or three weeks is relatively easy. But we don’t know. It would be nice to say that we will just wait and start up again in three weeks. But if you look at China, well, it could be longer. Even the Tour de France is not safe right now, as much as we might like to think otherwise.”

“Cycling is always a reflection of society and this has never more been the case as it is today,” he added. “We just have to do things in the proper order. Put ourselves on standby right now and do what is asked for the next 15 days. And then we will see.”

Pinot’s season has been placed on pause just as it was gaining momentum. Photo: James Startt