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Ashleigh Moolman Pasio says racing in COVID-19 era worth the risk

CCC-Liv rider says she's felt safe all season, despite the risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Amidst cries from the men’s peloton that the conditions at the Giro d’Italia are increasingly unsafe due to COVID-19, CCC-Liv rider Ashleigh Moolman Pasio says that learning to live with the virus is the only way forward.

“We have to find a way of continuing,” she said. “Everyone is doing their part, and there’s only so much we can control. I think most of us are doing our absolute best to control the controllable.”

VeloNews spoke with Moolman Pasio Friday morning while the South African was still at home in Spain, awaiting the results of her Thursday COVID-19 test before traveling to Belgium for Sunday’s Tour of Flanders. Belgium, like the rest of Europe, is dealing with a sharp uptick in coronavirus cases, now averaging 4,512 daily cases over the past week, according to Sciensano.

As a result of her team’s tightening restrictions around the team bubble, Moolman Pasio said she isn’t able to re-enter the bubble until she has a negative result to display. She will thus have only 24 hours with her team in Belgium before racing on Sunday.

“It’s a huge challenge,” she said. “Doing a COVID-19 test — which I did yesterday — not all countries and labs are able to do this fast turn around which does place strain on getting the team together and being together.”

Nevertheless, Moolman Pasio is adamant that, in a world where COVID-19 will likely long be part of the landscape, people learn to live responsibly in its midst. She believes that both the women’s peloton and race organizers deserve a lot of respect for how they’ve managed to salvage the 2020 season. In July, on the eve of the opening races of the compressed season, CCC-Liv’s team doctor withdrew the riders from two of the one-day races in Spain due to concerns that the UCI protocol wasn’t being properly adhered to.

However, Moolman Pasio says, most of the responsibility ultimately has to fall on the individual.

“I feel from my experience in the women’s peloton that it is taken really seriously and I don’t really feel like there’s been COVID fatigue,” she said. “I believe that we’re all continuing to execute these measures to reduce risk by wearing masks. On CCC-Liv, we take our temperature every day and submit it to the team. We’re washing our hands. . . I think it’s just become a norm. Definitely for me, living in Spain, it’s all just become part of my daily life.”

For many riders in the women’s peloton, Flanders will be their last race of the reason. Even as Belgium, like the rest of Europe, continues to struggle with a rising rate of COVID-19 infections, Moolman Pasio feels that protocol — and personal behavior — continue to make what will never be a “perfectly safe” environment as good as possible.

“I don’t feel unsafe,” she said. “Of course there is a risk, that’s just life.”