The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global health crisis that has led to restrictions on travel, business, social contact, and mass gatherings including sporting events.
International cycling has been shut down since March 13, 2020. The UCI has announced that major international competitions will resume as early as Aug. 1, 2020. Nevertheless, the UCI has wisely decided that virtually no events taking place in the remainder of 2020 will count towards qualification for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
At the same time, global infection rates continue to rise, with more than 10 million confirmed cases and more than 500,000 deaths. While infection rates in some regions have stabilized or dropped, the number of cases overall continues to grow and there has been a resurgence of the pandemic in some areas as restrictions are being lifted. Health experts have warned a second wave of the pandemic is likely if not inevitable because we have not achieved herd immunity; a vaccine has yet to be developed; and many jurisdictions have failed to implement adequate testing and contact tracing measures.
It is unclear how this will affect the resumption of the international cycling season. Travel and social gathering restrictions vary widely not just from country to country, but from region to region. It is likely many such measures will remain in effect for months if not longer. Even if Canadians are able to travel to other countries, travel itself will pose a significant health risk; any quarantine measures that remain in place for overseas visitors will hamper athletes’ ability to prepare for competition; and insurance may be difficult if not impossible to secure.
The advice we have received from Canadian multi-sport organizations is that athletes should avoid preparing for peak performances at major international events this year. It would be irresponsible of Cycling Canada to take a position that directly or indirectly encourages or pressures athletes to do otherwise.
Given the scale of this crisis, the uncertainty for the coming months, and Cycling Canada’s responsibility for the well-being of its athletes and staff, we feel it is important to provide some certainty and help reduce the pressure for athletes and staff to travel by adopting a clear and firm stance on national team programming.
National team programming
Cycling Canada is taking a cautious and pragmatic approach to the return to training and competition, with the safety of athletes and staff as the underlying principle.
The greatest risk involves travel to other countries. There are risks of exposure to COVID-19 during travel, and it is difficult to predict what conditions will be like in the countries where competitions are taking place. In addition, there are logistical hurdles that include:
- border closures;
- the possible need to self-quarantine both overseas and upon return to Canada;
- the difficulty in securing accommodation;
- the difficulty securing insurance;
- the potential for travel delays if any of our participants contract COVID-19; and
- the potential to be unable to travel home in the event of a second wave of the pandemic.
These risks need to be weighed against the relative importance of whatever competitions do take place. The UCI has made it clear that virtually no competitions that take place from now to the end of 2020 will count towards qualification for Tokyo 2020 (other than BMX worlds, which will likely be late December), so from that perspective there is less immediate pressure to send athletes overseas.
Cycling Canada has also decided that no events taking place between now and the end of 2020 will be considered for Olympic or Paralympic selection, to ensure we are not adding to the pressure for athletes to travel overseas.
Another major consideration for Canadian athletes participating in international competitions is to achieve results for carding. Cycling Canada has consulted with Sport Canada and confirmed that no results after March 3, 2020, will be considered for 2021 carding nominations.
We must also be mindful of the importance of junior events for the development of emerging athletes and providing exposure to international competition. However, we do not believe that these objectives outweigh the health risks of sending young athletes abroad, in particular given the heightened responsibility Cycling Canada has for minors in its care.
Finally, Cycling Canada typically requires athletes to compete in Canadian championships in order to maintain their eligibility for national team selection and for carding. We hope to run some Canadian championships this year, but in order to avoid pressuring people to travel the requirement for athletes to attend these events will be waived for 2020.
With all this in mind Cycling Canada is adopting the following position on National Team programming:
- Cycling Canada will not be conducting any national team projects outside Canada before Jan. 1, 2021.
- The sole exceptions may be Elite and U23 World Championships (see below). A decision on worlds participation will be taken around July 15.
- A decision on projects after Jan. 1, 2021, will be taken in September, or once additional information becomes available.
- For the remainder of 2020, resumption of National Team programming will be phased as follows:
- Phase 1 (underway) – Athletes following training plans at home while respecting local public health guidelines.
- Phase 2 (partly underway) – Organized training resuming for programs based at national team facilities (eg. track and BMX) under strict return- to-training guidelines developed in partnership with the facilities and Canadian Sport Institutes.
- Phase 3 (partly underway) – Organized training camps within Canada.
- Phase 4 (pending) – Competitions within Canada, with no obligation to attend Canadian championships.
- Given the range of directives from local health authorities and the varying requirements and objectives for each program, these plans will be developed for each program and monitored/adjusted as conditions evolve.
- No aspect of National Team programming will be mandatory for the balance of 2020. This position takes precedence over any other policies or agreements in place.
Cycling Canada may enter Elite and U23 athletes in the following World Championships if conditions permit:
- 2020 UCI Road World Championships (Aigle-Martigny, SUI, 20-27)
- 2020 UCI XCO and DHI Mountain Bike World Championships (Leogang, AUT, 5-11)
Cycling Canada will only enter athletes who are already in Europe as part of their competition program with UCI-registered teams, and this will only be done if it is possible for staff to safely travel from Canada, or for Europe-based personnel to staff the events on behalf of Cycling Canada.
Under no circumstances will Cycling Canada enter juniors in the road or mountain bike world championships.
For the 2020 UCI BMX World Championships (Houston, USA, dates TBA), Cycling Canada will assess the situation when more information becomes available.
The pandemic remains unpredictable and Cycling Canada continues to monitor the global situation. We reserve the right to modify our approach to national team programming in the coming months, while respecting the position outlined above.