Image courtesy of UCI

The 2020 UCI WorldTour and UCI Women’s WorldTour concluded on Sunday with the arrival respectively of the Vuelta Ciclista a España and the Ceratizit Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta in the Spanish capital, Madrid. This season will remain historic because of the unprecedented health conditions linked to Covid-19 which played havoc with the two major circuits for men’s and women’s professional road cycling.

After our sport came to a complete halt mid-March, UCI WorldTour and UCI Women’s WorldTour races started again on 1st August, adhering to the UCI health protocol, with the men’s and women’s Strade Bianche (Italy). In total, after cancellations and postponements of events, the 2020 UCI WorldTour was able to take place, with 21 events and 121 days of racing, of which 17 events and 101 race days took place from August to early November during the period of pandemic. For women, almost all the 11 events and 21 days of racing took place under the restrictions imposed due to the international health situation. We can be extremely satisfied that only Paris-Roubaix and Paris-Roubaix Femmes and Amstel Gold Race and Amstel Gold Race Ladies were cancelled in the new UCI International Road Calendar drawn up by our Federation and its partners on 5 May 2020.

With 54 positive results (of which only half were among the riders) out of 13,850 PCR tests carried out on the teams, the prevalence rate, which corresponds to the number of ill or contaminated individuals in a population, is 0.34% (and only 0.17% for the athletes) in our two leading series for road cycling. These rates are much lower than the levels in the countries’ general population, which often reaches 10% or more. The UCI is very pleased with these 2020 editions of the UCI WorldTour and UCI Women’s WorldTour and considers that the health situation remained under control thanks to the joint effort of all involved in cycling.

As a reminder, the UCI published the health protocol with a view to the resumption of cycling competitions on 19 June 2020. It was drawn up by a steering group composed of representatives from cycling’s different families (riders, teams and organisers) as well as team doctors, under the direction of UCI Medical Director Professor Xavier Bigard. The protocol used the principle of the race bubble, made up of riders and team staff, who had to remain isolated and protected from others at the race (organisation, officials, media and guests). A series of pre-competition tests was made obligatory, as well as follow-up tests on the rest days of the three Grand Tours. The PCR methods, recognised by the World Health Organisation and the competent national authorities as the most accurate for detecting the coronavirus, were chosen by the UCI for the tests.

The UCI protocol provided organisers of the 2020 UCI WorldTour and the 2020 UCI Women’s WorldTour with the requirements for the resumption of competitions, while respecting the regulations in force in the regions of the countries hosting the events. This protocol, coupled with the update and publication of the revised 2020 calendars of both series was a central element as the professional road cycling season restarted, given the extremely uncertain international health situation.

The UCI protocol, and its principle of the competition bubble, was then extended to other disciplines, notably mountain bike, track and shortly cyclo-cross.

Using this protocol also meant it was possible to stage the UCI World Championships for road in Imola (Italy) and for mountain bike in Leogang (Austria).

In total across all concerned disciplines, there were 63 positive cases (only 29 of which concerned the athletes) out of 18,650 PCR tests carried out on riders and team staff members during 29 women’s events and 94 men’s events (including the UCI WorldTour and UCI Women’s WorldTour), as well as two UCI World Championships. The prevalence rate is 0.30%, and only half that (0.15%) when it comes to the athletes only.

The staging of major international cycling events was widely recognised and welcomed as a remarkable achievement by the sporting world, including by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and its President Thomas Bach. Cycling succeeded in meeting this unprecedented challenge thanks to its ability to react, its spirit of unity and its sense of sacrifice during a period of extreme uncertainty.

UCI Medical Director Professor Xavier Bigard declared: “The health protocol was a key element for the resumption of the UCI International Calendar, especially for road cycling. Its principle (race bubble) and the tests carried out (by the PCR method) have proven their worth. Riders, teams and organisers should be commended for their conscientiousness and their commitment. From August until November they respected extremely strict measures without which it would not have been possible to obtain the agreement of the competent authorities to organise cycling competitions in the current world health situation. I would also like to warmly thank all the team doctors for their full collaboration, without whom the 2020 season would not have been such a great success. Finally, I pay tribute to the spirit of unity and responsibility of all which, from the drafting of the protocol to its implementation, enabled our sport to exist despite the pandemic.”