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Holm: ‘If we survived Festina and Puerto, cycling can survive COVID’

Veteran sport director optimistic that pro racing will endure coronavirus crisis.

BURGOS, Spain (VN) — Brian Holm has seen it all during his long career as both a racer and a sport director. From doping scandals to folding teams, cycling has been through the ringer. Nothing, however, compares to the unprecedented race stoppage provoked by the coronavirus pandemic.

Holm, a sport director and all-around guru at Deceuninck-Quick-Step, is watching with interest as the sport reels from its latest challenge. At least this time, Holm said, it’s not cycling shooting itself in the foot.

VeloNews caught up with Holm at the Vuelta a Burgos just as the sport was coming out of its COVID-19 lockdown. Here’s what he had to say:

Holm has been involved with the Quick-Step team for years. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

VeloNews: How important is it for cycling to get back into competition after seeing no racing since March?
Brian Holm: Everybody is very happy to be racing again. It’s a new situation for everyone. Everyone adapts. People understand it’s an SOS situation now. The race organizer [at Burgos] has done a good job. Now the riders will do their job, of that much I am sure of.

VN: How safe do you feel being back at the races?
BH: The doctors got the protocols. We have to be tested five days before, three days before, and we have our temperature taken two times a day. And everyone has to fill out a sheet if they feel any symptoms. You have the mask in the car, at the start, but everyone understands what the situation is now. The race organizers have done a really good job. Everyone feels safe at the races.

VN: Some have suggested that the coronavirus presents a direct threat to professional cycling. What’s your view about the future of the sport with so much uncertainty?
BH: It could be a big problem, and it’s not a good situation. We also remember clearly the Festina scandal, and Operation Puerto, and those did a lot of damage to cycling. This time, at least it’s now our mistake that something goes wrong. This is a nasty, terrible problem, and it might still be around for some time. I can promise you that cycling can move on from this.

VN: So you are optimistic about the future of cycling? How much of this year’s calendar do you think will be run going into November?
BH: It is our job is to be optimistic. That is the DNA in cycling; we have to try, we have to keep pushing. If something happens and we cannot get to November, then that’s too bad. This situation now is like a bike race, you have to try, keep fighting, and give everything. I think we will be able to do it.

VN: Some people have suggested it is irresponsible to race during pandemic conditions. Do think it’s correct for cycling to resume while COVID-19 is still not fully under control?
BH: There are always a lot of people with opinions. People who say we should stop are mostly people outside of cycling, and I think they should shut up, too. Life has to continue, and we have to move on with our life. Cycling has done a lot to keep things safe. Inside the bubble it is quite safe. I am only a simple sport director, and I admit that I do not have the answers to all these things, so we have to listen to the doctors. I also think I have a smaller chance to get coronavirus when I am at the race than when I am walking around Copenhagen.

VN: What are your expectations in these first races after such a long stoppage without any competition at all?
BH: It’s going to be interesting to follow these first races. We will see if the riders who were not in lockdown for those three or four months, like riders from Belgium and other places who could train, if they might be going better than the others. Normally a season has three parts — the spring classics, the grand tours, and then late season — now we have three months we are going to do everything. Now everyone is going to go full-speed ahead from kilometer zero. It’s going to be very interesting. I am quite sure it will not be boring.