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Unzué on calendar: ‘It gives oxygen to cycling’

Spanish manager assures that his 28-rider roster can still target its top goals, but admits new calendar could see more disruption.

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Eusebio Unzué has seen it all during his four-decade career in cycling, until now. The coronavirus pandemic has stopped racing in its tracks. The veteran Movistar manager applauded the new racing calendar despite seeing major races, including the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España, overlap on the revised schedule.

“The calendar gives a bit of oxygen to cycling,” Unzué said. “We can plan things now, even if we know there could be more changes. Training isn’t as hard when you have an objective. Just having some firm dates will give everyone motivation after having what will be nearly five months without competition.”

The updated 2020 calendar comes just as Spain has eased some of its most severe restrictions, and since Monday, the team’s riders living in Spain are being allowed to train outside for the first time since mid-March.

Unzué said even with an imperfect calendar that sees overlapping between some of the top races is better than the alternative. The Tour de France and major monuments do not conflict, but overlapping is inevitable. October 25, for example, sees the final day of the Giro d’Italia, the summit finale at the Col du Tourmalet during the Vuelta a España, and Paris-Roubaix.

“We know the new calendar is a bit of a wish-list, and we hope it comes true,” Unzué said. “Now we have time to study the calendar, which looks to have about 75 percent of the most important races. Everyone knows we are facing an exceptional situation. Even if there is some overlap, if we are able to race later this season, that would mean that the worse of this virus would be behind us.”

By compressing the three grand tours, major one-day and week-long races into a window that’s little more than three months, the pressure will be on teams, riders, and staffers. Unzué assured that his team of 28 riders would not have a problem filling out the calendar. Though there will be inevitable adjustments, Unzué said the team’s main goals with its top riders remain possible in the new-look schedule.

“Our two biggest objectives are the Tour and [the] Vuelta, and with the amount of days between those races, there is enough recovery time for our top riders to do both,” he said. “With our 28 riders, we will not have a problem racing this calendar. And we will still be able to go to the Giro with a good team and enjoy that special race for what it is.”

So far, Movistar is among the WorldTour’s teams that have not suffered pay cuts, layoffs or reductions. Both its men’s and women’s teams are preparing for the expectation of racing again.

Unzué admitted racing will be dependent on prevailing health conditions, and said if racing is allowed as the calendar spells out, it would mean that the coronavirus crisis is under control across Europe. The initial steps of returning to training on open roads is a good sign things are going in the right direction.

“Being able to train outside and having clear objectives, even if we know they could change, is assuring to the riders,” Unzué said. “Some of our riders haven’t been able to go outside for nearly two months. That’s been a true torture.”