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The prospect of racing until mid-November is presenting yet another hurdle for teams and riders hoping to see a 2020 racing revival.
The peloton is slowly starting to stir following an unprecedented two-month forced hibernation. With racing still three months away — if coronavirus conditions allow — teams are starting to map out a rough map of insertion.
Plans that were laid out months in advance have suddenly been turned upside down. With the new-look calendar jumbling that puzzle even more, it won’t be easy to put the pieces back together again.
“It’s going to be an interesting challenge,” said UAE-Emirates Allan Peiper. “Everyone is going to have to do a year’s worth a planning again for the second this season.”
Teams with a heavy focus on the Tour de France overall classification won’t see as much disruption perhaps compared to others. Though the Tour will be the new-look calendar’s first grand tour, most of the top GC stars will keep the Tour at the center of their revised plans.
For example, UAE-Emirates is still planning on sending Tadej Pogacar to the Tour for his highly anticipated debut. Team Ineos is expected to send its powerhouse fleet of Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas, and Egan Bernal just as planned. The same goes for Jumbo-Visma, with Tom Dumoulin, Primoz Roglic, and Steven Kruijswijk all slated to race the Tour.
Even in these most unusual of times, the Tour remains the center of the racing universe.
Ag2r-La Mondiale’s Romain Bardet, writing in a column in Le Monde, said since the updated calendar pushes so late in the season, he can afford to ease back into training. Like many pros in Italy, France, Andorra, and Spain, Bardet has only recently been able to return to training on open roads after nearly eight weeks of confinement.
“The objectives are so far away there will be a slow building,” said Bardet, who has swapped a planned Giro d’Italia debut for a return to the Tour. “I give myself until mid-July to be competitive again.”
Simon Yates, the 2018 Vuelta a España winner, also said he’s in no rush to re-set his calendar. With so much disruption and reshufflings of dates, he said last week he’s uncertain what he will be racing and when. Yates was originally planning to race the Giro d’Italia to prepare for the Olympic Games. With Tokyo on hold until 2021, Yates’ calendar has been turned upside down.
Other traditional signposts, such as racing the spring classics, Tour de France and worlds, or hitting the Giro-Vuelta a España double, are being re-set.
“It’s really up in the air what I will be doing this year,” Yates said. “Normally, the grand tours are physical enough on their own, and if you do the Giro-Vuelta, you have months to recover. Here we are going to be back to back. It could have a big effect.”
The way the new-look calendar shapes up, the top riders who race the Tour can still start all the major one-day monuments if they choose to. There’s plenty of overlap in the new calendar, especially with the Giro and Vuelta overlapping in late October.
Riders are already preparing both physically and mentally to race perhaps all the way into November. That means slowly easing back onto the bike, but not going too hard.
“It is important to save a little energy to go so late in the season,” Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang told Danish TV. “I’m training, but not too intensely.”
Fuglsang, winner of last year’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège, knows he won’t be able to defend his title in the Ardennes monument if he wants to race the Giro as originally planned. On the rescheduled calendar, Liège is now set to run on October 4, also the second stage of the Giro.
“It’s going to be difficult to choose one over another,” Fuglsang said. “It depends a bit on what the team wants. If I do the Tour, I can race the monuments, but I’d also like to race the Giro. It’s going to be impossible to race all the races you want.”
At this point, everyone is quietly hopeful the peloton will see some racing at all.