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Speaking to the French website, Lappartient said the UCI is closely monitoring the ever-changing coronavirus health situation, but expressed quiet optimism the season’s major races on the WorldTour will unfold as scheduled.
“Apart from the United Arab Emirates for the UAE Tour, travel outside of Europe will be limited. We will have most of the events in Europe. Some countries are almost closed, others are more strict,” Lappartient said. “In Belgium, we can operate ‘behind closed doors.’ I was at the Tour of Flanders last year and it worked very well. Right now, the Belgian races are not in doubt.”
“For the moment, things can be fine at this level,” Lappartient said of the WorldTour. “Only the Tour Down Under and the Cadel Evans Road Race have not taken place, and they will not be rescheduled.”
Lappartient’s comments are significant because it’s the first time the UCI president has spoken publicly since a string of race cancelations and postponements across Spain and Portugal during the past few weeks, with events such as Challenge Mallorca, Ruta del Sol, Volta ao Algarve, and the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana forced to be canceled in Europe.
Several of those races have said they will try to reschedule their events later this season, but Lappartient said it’s too early to say if and when the calendar can accommodate new dates.
“Everyone looks at the calendar as if they were alone and everyone makes almost the same choice. We would end up with weeks where there are five or six races,” he said, suggesting there could be room on the calendar during the Tour de France or Olympic Games. “This is the reason why the UCI will take the time to properly analyze the situation. We are waiting for the month of March to first see which events are actually canceled and then decide on a reorganization of the calendar.”
Despite the health woes, racing resumed this weekend in France, where authorities allow professional sports to continue under certain restrictions. Officials are hopeful cycling’s “race bubble” will help the sport stay afloat over the next few weeks and months as Europe unrolls its vaccination programs.
“The Tour de France to be the start of a ‘new life,'” he said. “The first half [of the calendar] looks to be complicated. Most countries will be in a difficult vaccination campaign to manage. It will also be necessary to closely monitor the evolution of the variants of this virus.”
Lappartient said the UCI remains in steady contact with cycling’s key stakeholders as well as other government and health bodies as cycling clicks into gear for the 2021 racing season in Europe.
“It is obvious that we are closely monitoring what is happening,” he said. “I have meetings every week with the road department of the UCI, and every fortnight with the CPA (Professional Cyclists Associates), AIGCP (International Association of Professional Cycling Groups) and AIOCC (International Association of Cycling Race Organizers), the three cycling families.”