With EWS racing returning this weekend and World Cups later in September, the UCI and Trailove (the organizers of EWS Zermatt) have outlined new guidelines on how they intend to keep riders and fans safe in a COVID world. The UCI's rules are adapted from road cycling where the season has already restarted with the Criterium du Dauphine, Milan San Remo and the Tour de France kicking off this weekend. The guidelines revolve around the 'team bubble' concept, where teams are isolated from the public and each other and only people who return a negative COVID test can enter.
Both the UCI and Traillove stress that local guidelines take precedence but they both have some guidelines that refer specifically to mountain bike racing and they are what we'll be looking at here. Here are 5 ways racing will look different when it returns:1. Team Bubbles
For World Cups, the UCI's bike team bubbles protocol has been adapted from road cycling to better suit the purposes of mountain biking. In road cycling, the bubbles form together to form a peloton bubble, which allows riders and team to interact with each other but not third parties outside the bubble. Once inside the bubble, contact with anyone outside it is discouraged and this includes teams having their own floors at hotels, private dining rooms and restrictions on start and finish areas. It's worth noting the test to enter the bubble can be via a clinical questionnaire and it doesn't need a full virus test.2. Masking
Masks are going to be a huge part of the restart plan with 22 mentions in the UCI plan alone. Unfortunately social distancing isn't going to be possible at race weekends so masks will be another line of defence against the virus. The UCI is mandating masks everywhere from hotels to anti-doping but the bottom line is that masks are compulsory at all times for everyone except athletes during, "training, warm-up sessions and during competitions."
In the EWS masks will be worn, "by all staff and riders if the social distancing rules can not be maintained." This includes on transport, gondolas and during award ceremonies.3. Spectators
The UCI doesn't have any specific restrictions on fans, instead referring to local guidelines, however they will be restricting access to the finish area to only essential personnel as explained below.
Traillove is taking this a bit further. It's probably impossible to police the entire length of an EWS course but in an effort to reduce spectator numbers, no public maps of the course will be available on site and there will be no areas set aside for spectators at the side of the course. On top of this, no public will be allowed access to the awards ceremony or race start.4. Start Huts and Finish Areas
The UCI is asking that organizers, "only allow access to essential people, with face masks" at race starts and that those that are there, "always maintain a safe distance between the public and the riders". This will be especially important in XC races where the entire XC peloton bubble will be in one place. During the downhill race, only 1 rider will be on the hotseat in the finish area (as opposed to the usual 3) and only "essential people" will be allowed in finish areas. The UCI defines this as 1-2 people from each team and a few photographers.
In Zermatt, riders will start the race one by one and there will be no interviews by the event MC will be carried out at rollout. Out on course riders must queue 2 metres apart for each stage and there will be no food at feed stations at the EWS this weekend, just water points where athletes will be required to fill up their own water bottles. 5. Podiums
Podium presentations often see the most people gathered in one place at a World Cup race and they're going to be looking a bit different when racing returns. Podium boxes will now have to be placed 1.5m apart, spectators will be limited and riders now have a self serve option that allows them to collect their medals after hand sanitising.
Traillove is limiting numbers at its award ceremony to 100 people with no public allowed. It's podiums steps will be 2 metres apart and the self serve option is mandatory. Face masks must be worn under both UCI and Traillove guidelines.But...
It's worth saying that even with these guidelines, there's no guarantee that racing will be going ahead. Road cycling has been implementing its version of these guidelines for most of August but some positive tests are still being registered
. On top of this, cases are on the rise across Europe, which could lead to local regulations restricting the size of events leading to further cancellations. David Lappartient, UCI President, said, "The UCI, organisers, teams and riders have the responsibility of applying these measures so that the resumption of mountain bike in particular and cycling in general is not in any way compromised. Given the current global health situation, this resumption is by no means guaranteed. The protocol remains dependent upon the laws and provisions of the countries hosting our events, but it does represent another step towards a return to normality for our sport.”
The full UCI guidelines can be found, here
and the Traillove guidelines, here
A note on the comments
COVID-19 is a serious global health risk, and while we don't want to limit the conversation we're going to actively remove disinformation and suspend people who continue to post it.