Just as the pro road season clicks back into top gear after the coronavirus race stoppage, the mountain bike world is also ready to get racing.
The UCI confirmed its health protocol for the mountain bike season in a statement Monday, with many of the key measures already in place in road racing to be adapted and utilized for off-road competitions.
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The key takeaway from the protocol is the use of the team “bubble,” which is currently in use at road races. The concept serves to keep racers and staff enclosed in its own isolated environment, with people only cleared to enter on return on a negative COVID test. Once in the bubble, all contact and travel outside of it is minimized.
“This protocol for international mountain bike events is an important piece in the puzzle as we look to get our sport started again,” said UCI President David Lappartient. “The principle of the ‘team bubble’, adopted by road cycling, has been developed here for off-road, cycling, with aspects specific to MTB.”
The key takeaways from the mountain bike protocol are:
- A medical check upon entry into the competitors’ bubble, with organizers able to choose from a simple clinical questionnaire and/or viral tests;
- Measures designed to limit the risk of the virus spreading, such as making accommodation secure, the organization of common areas (media area, official zones and guest areas), the restriction of access to start and finish areas, and changes to awards ceremonies, etc;
- Measures specific to mountain bike, such as conditions pertaining to access to the downhill start area (reduction in the number of people per cabin, conditions relating to the boarding of bikes), organization of the finish area (only one person in the hotseat).
There is also a focus on the communication of the local conditions from race organizers. The UCI is placing responsibility on races to upload information to a UCI platform providing a full WHO-compliant risk analysis of the health conditions in the local region, and to publish results of a risk analysis related to the event.
With more than 60 percent of events on the UCI mountain bike calendar having been canceled or postponed, there is pressure to ensure that every event goes ahead successfully. Having seen the health protocol rolled out and trialed on the road, there should be some hope, with there still being time to make necessary refinements before the October world championships, held in Austria, Turkey, and Belgium.
“The UCI, organizers, teams and riders have the responsibility of applying these measures so that the resumption of mountain bike in particular and cycling, in general, is not in any way compromised,” Lappartient said.
“Given the current global health situation, this resumption is by no means guaranteed. The protocol remains dependent upon the laws and provisions of the countries hosting our events, but it does represent another step towards a return to normality for our sport.”