by Kris Westwood, High Performance Director at Cycling Canada
Two weeks ago we passed the one-year anniversary of COVID being declared a pandemic; last week marked a year since the world ground to a halt.
We were unaware about what was coming our way – when the pandemic hit, all we could do was sit tight, behave responsibly and follow public health guidelines. The global disruption has lasted a lot longer than we thought back then, but things are starting to head in the right direction.
Last year, thanks to a monumental effort from organizers and the UCI to develop and implement COVID-19 protocols, most of the major events on the European professional road calendar took place safely. A handful of mountain bike and cyclo-cross world cups went ahead, as well as world championships for both disciplines.
More recently, the most encouraging news is the pace of vaccinations is picking up as more vaccines are approved and supply becomes available. Health Canada’s vaccine rollout plan shows immunization of the general population starting as early as April – great news for our Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic teams.
Speaking of Tokyo, the likelihood the Games will take place as planned seems to be getting stronger. Over the weekend, Games organizers announced the latest measure to keep athletes safe: overseas spectators won’t be allowed. While disappointing for hundreds of thousands who planned to trave to Japan, it’s a reasonable compromise to reduce international travel.
Meanwhile, we continue to piece together our national team programs knowing that things remain very uncertain in the short term. So far, we’ve published draft selection documents for road development, Para-cycling and MTB selection policies – criteria for the postponed junior track worlds, road worlds, BMX, and the elite track program will follow shortly.
While we remain steadfast that we will see the Maple Leaf at more competitions and events this year, we also recognize the importance of planning for every situation when it comes to travel. Our travel protocols and guidelines document outlines the five most common situations that are likely to occur during the 2021 season; and how we will take all of the precautionary steps to make sure our athletes, staff and community are safe.
Uncertainty about international events and travel restrictions continue to be the main challenges for our staff, who have gone through countless redrafts of our national team programs. In the last few weeks the UCI announced that the Newport Track Nations Cup and the Bassano del Grappa and Baie-Comeau rounds of the Para-cycling road world cup have been cancelled or postponed. We’ve also heard unofficially that the opening weekend of the BMX World Cup in Stuttgart will be cancelled. We’re keeping an anxious eye on the calendar as we await the fate of other events.
Despite this uncertain climate, our coaches and staff have done an amazing job in helping our athletes focus on their performance goals. Many years from now, 2020 will be just another entry in the history of sports. In the meantime, we are the unwitting actors as that history is written; all we can do is stay safe, knowing that we will get through this together and be stronger as a result.