What does the cancellation mean for the Women’s WorldTour?
The UCI has decided to cancel all of its events through April and May in China, as the coronavirus spreads across the country. Events scheduled to take place in the country have already been removed from the UCI’s calendar.
In its press release the UCI also announced its intention to monitor athletes from affected countries attending races elsewhere in the world.
The announcement comes after other sports cancelled Chinese events, including the Shanghai Formula One Grand Prix, the HSBC World Rugby Sevens and the World Indoor Athletics Championships.
“Bearing in mind the potential scale of the epidemic and the data provided on confirmed clinical cases, there are justifiable grounds for postponing all competitions until such time as epidemiological data are more reassuring,” read the UCI’s statement.
“The UCI has taken the decision with the Chinese Cycling Association to postpone cycling events originally scheduled for April and May.
“On March 15, the UCI will communicate the new dates of competitions to be organised later in the season, as well as the list of events that will be cancelled.”
One of the events affected is the Tour of Chongming Island. The three stage race takes place just outside Shanghai, around 800km from the centre of the outbreak in Wuhan, and its cancellation leaves a huge hole in the Women’s WorldTour calendar.
Last year organisers of both Amgen Tour of California and Emakumeen Bira, in the Spanish Basque Country, announced their races would not take place this year, leaving Chongming as the only top tier women’s race during May.
Now the series, which began earlier this month with the Cadel Evans Great Ocean race, will have no events for six weeks between Liège-Bastogne-Liège on April 26th and the Women’s Tour beginning in Oxfordshire on June 8th.
Designed to provide the women’s season with a year long ‘narrative’ this period without top tier races severely undermines that narrative, despite the race generally attracting only sprinters.
Last year’s race was won by Dutchwoman Lorena Wiebes. The Parkhotel-Valkenburg rider won all three days on her way to finishing third on the WorldTour individual classification and ending the year as the top ranked woman.
The absence of the Tour of Chongming Island could benefit other, European women’s races, as riders seek competition elsewhere.
The ASDA Tour de Yorkshire Women’s race takes place a few days before the dates scheduled for Chongming, and Festival Elsy Jacobs, a three day event in Luxembourg, runs concurrently and is part of the UCI’s new ProSeries, the second tier of event.
Though the UCI will announce new dates for some events next month, it is hard to see where Chongming could fit at any other time in the season, with the entire summer stacked with top level racing.
The Women’s World Tour does close in China, with the one day Tour of Guangxi, though that typically is in the middle of many riders’ off season, and may not be an appropriate date in which to fit Chongming.
Though commonly known as coronavirus, the illness is called Covid-19 and originally infected those working in Wuhan’s fish market, before spreading throughout the city and beyond.
A form of viral pneumonia, Covid-19 causes high temperature, coughs and respiratory problems and can be passed form human to human. To date cases have been recorded in 28 countries other than China, where more than 75,000 cases are reported, with just over 2,000 deaths.
There have been nine cases in the UK, with no fatalities.