The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) today published an updated Covid-19 health protocol applicable to men’s and women’s road competitions registered on the 2021 UCI International Calendar.

The document, drafted by the steering group headed up by the UCI Medical Director, Professor Xavier Bigard, is broadly similar to the 2020 protocol but features changes made in response to developments in the international health situation. The most notable of these developments are rapid scientific advances (the creation of vaccines) and new characteristics of the pandemic (mutations of the virus and rapid spread of variants).

Firstly, and as mentioned in the previous protocol, the UCI and its partners in the steering group wish to point out that the provisions of the updated protocol do not take precedence over local and national laws and measures. They apply to teams first and foremost (athletes and management) and will be rapidly updated as the global health situation and scientific knowledge evolves.

At this moment in time and in response to the spread of coronavirus variants, the UCI and its partners would like to stress the crucial importance of observing individual prevention measures. They are the most effective means of protecting oneself from the risk of infection. This is an essential part of our message that any relaxation in the strict application of rules and regulations is unacceptable. By way of example, we would like to remind everyone of the need to check masks for their ability to filter particles and their breathability, and to ensure that they are worn correctly.

The UCI and its partners are closely monitoring the development of vaccines. However, the vaccination strategies currently in force in numerous countries do not place high-level athletes among the priority groups. Moreover, we do not currently have any scientific data about the reduction in transmission of the virus by vaccinated people. That is why the protection objectives of team bubbles means the continuation of PCR tests for all members of the peloton bubble, including those who have benefited from an anti-COVID vaccination.

The members of the UCI’s steering group would like to point out that countries require anyone wishing to enter their territory to take a PCR test.

The same health requirements for entry into bubbles (two negative PCR tests before each race for UCI WorldTour, UCI Women’s WorldTour and men’s and women’s UCI ProSeries) thus apply to athletes and management staff of teams. As was the case last year, the following also applies:

  • tests that must currently be taken to gain entry to a country are valid as pre-race tests;
  • with regard to the three Grand Tours, PCR tests will be conducted on rest days;
  • PCR salivary tests are permitted.

Given the lower reliability of antigen tests, and the lack of proof as to the efficacy of antigen tests on new variants, as was the case last year, these cannot be used by athletes and their entourage as proof that the person tested is not carrying the virus.

Finally, with a view to enabling riders to return to their countries of origin, organisers should help teams to conduct PCR tests on leaving the country in question by enabling them to contact local approved laboratories that are available to carry out these tests.

As stated above, the protocol must be rapidly reviewed and adapted to new conditions of the pandemic and to the latest knowledge in the area of prevention.

Concerning Class 1 and Class 2 road races, as well as events for other disciplines (notably BMX and mountain bike), the protocols that have already been published will also be updated, in the coming weeks.

UCI President David Lappartient said: “Progress has been made in the fight against coronavirus, especially with the arrival of vaccines, which have given us hope that we can soon make a gradual return to a more ‘normal’ life. However, given that athletes and young adults are not among governments’ priorities for vaccination, we have decided, in conjunction with the steering group – which includes representatives of the riders, teams, team doctors and organisers – to maintain similarly high standards as last year, in the best interests of all parties and in expectation of better days ahead. Cycling showed in 2020 that it knows how to organise major events in a pandemic, thanks in the main to an exemplary spirit of unity on the part of all stakeholders. In view of that spirit and the experience we have acquired, I am convinced that we have what it takes to continue to give our sport a platform, despite all the continuing uncertainty.”