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UCI rolls out updated COVID protocol as peloton faces third pandemic season

Governing body releases new sanitary rule book with added focus on national regulation and vaccine status.

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More bike racing means more risk of COVID in 2022.

The UCI rolled out a newly updated COVID-19 policy for the upcoming road season Friday as the peloton pedals into its third pandemic season.

The short story for the coming year?

Much will be the same, except that 2022 health measures will place added emphasis on national regulations, vaccination levels and individual prevention measures.

Team bubbles, mandatory face masks, and strict social distancing will continue to be maintained on race podiums and in the media paddock.

However, the tweaked guidance means that where national measures are stricter than those imposed by the UCI, local laws will take precedence. If national rules are more relaxed, the UCI rulebook will be enforced. This update comes in the same week that French authorities mandated that all athletes provide proof of vaccination in order to take part in sporting events.

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There will also be some adjustment to the requirements for entry into team bubbles in 2022 as rules differ per type of race.

  • One-day races and short stage races (fewer than seven stages)
    • Fully vaccinated
    • or a negative PCR test dated less than two days previously – PCR salivary tests are permitted but antigen tests are not.
  • Stage races of seven stages or longer
    • a negative PCR test dated less than two days previously regardless of whether the person is vaccinated or not
    • intermediate PCR tests will be conducted during the grand tours.

The updated protocol was released Friday on the eve of a road calendar that has already been stung by the ongoing pandemic and the surge in Omicron cases worldwide.

The Tour Down Under and the wider international summer of cycling has been shut down in Australia, while the Argentine Vuelta a San Juan has also been postponed. Last week, several top teams saw their pre-season camps shut down by COVID cases cropping up within team bubbles.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom.

The 2021 season played out almost without disruption as a full slate of classics and all three grand tours went without hitch. UCI president David Lappartient said he hopes that past lessons will help with future racing.

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause suffering and disruption, but as we have demonstrated over the last two years, cycling is capable of maintaining its activities thanks to the responsible actions of all our stakeholders,” Lappartient said.

“I sincerely hope that these uncertain times will soon be behind us, but in the meantime, I am confident that, thanks to the spirit of solidarity within the cycling family, our sport will continue to thrive.”

The European season clicks into gear Sunday at the Clàssica Comunitat Valenciana 1969, while the WorldTour starts at the UAE Tour in late February.

For a deep dive into the 2022 COVID policy, check the full protocol here.