On Saturday, August 1 the Belgian road and cyclo cross star Wout van Aert stormed out of the Italian dust clouds of the race entourage to take victory in the famous “Strade Bianchi” (“white” or “dirt road”) classic men’s race in Tuscany. As impressive as his victory was, and that of World Champion Annemiek van Vleuten in the preceding women’s race, it was the fact that the event even happened that was the big story. The race was originally scheduled for early March, but as Italy went into lockdown, it was culled at the eleventh hour. This was the first World Tour level race to be held since Covid-19 struck. With many teams and race organisations facing financial ruin from the virus fallout, all parties involved were determined to make it happen. The Union Cycliste International (UCI), the governing body for the sport, has cherry picked the biggest races of the year and crammed them all into a period which began on August 1 in Italy and will provisionally end on the 10th of November with the Tour of Guangxi in China. But the chances of the full schedule being completed are in the balance. . The Tour de France is scheduled to start on the August 29 in Nice, and stands head and shoulders above the others as a race, and is one of the biggest annual sporting events in the world. The Tour is the key to survival for many major pro teams. Without the Tour, a number of teams will disappear in 2021 without sponsorship. Just how this race schedule will come together from a safety and Covid compliance standpoint will differ from race to race amid regional regulations. But if Italy is anything to go by, things looked to be pretty relaxed overall, even lapsing on the mask-wearing side as far as fans were concerned. While fans are generally expected to wear masks at the start and finish, the roadside is different matter – fans were unmasked and cheering riders at very close proximity. But in Spain, the Vuelta a Burgos stage race also took place last week in a region that has suffered heavily from new infections recently. Almost all fans at the roadside were wearing masks, and authorities were in place to enforce the requirement in what could become a volatile situation. Meanwhile, teams are in “bubbles” as they put in their last-minute preparations. Team Ineos rider and 2018 Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas said from a team training camp in the French Alps: “Before we came on camp we had to get tested twice – once a week before and once two days before. Hygiene is at its maximum, so hand gel has to be everywhere where we’re staying.” “We’re not stopping for coffee or anything. There’s a chef from Monaco [where many riders live] coming up here with all of the ingredients and stuff for our own chef so that he does not even have to go shopping.” At most races, teams stay within their bubbles as much as possible, and are supposed to be assigned individual team floors in their hotels. Riders must return a negative test before starting, and their temperatures are also taken on the start line. Most are masked until flag off, and then again after the finish. Riders have been using indoor trainers, a situation which has prompted a mass surge in virtual online racing. Many teams have competed in shortened online versions of the classic races, and even a virtual Tour de France. Geraint Thomas suffers heavy fall at the Tour de Suisse In some countries, athletes have still been able to train outdoors throughout the pandemic, including in Belgium, as Wout van Aert revealed. “I think in Belgium we were lucky. The government decided straight away, from the beginning, that sport is really important for our health, and that we need some sort of entertainment. “So, we were always able to go out walking or riding our bike. We had permission to do that, and actually, it’s been super sunny in Belgium this spring, so that was a big plus.” With most of the pro peloton being based in mainland Europe, travel and restrictions were almost unilaterally aligned, and most are able to drive to the races to avoid airports and flying. The large Colombian rider contingent mostly spent lockdown at home in South America, and were only allowed to train outside after a plea to the government by Nairo Quintana of the Arkea-Samsic team, a national hero in the cycling-mad country. Despite the desperate situation in that region, pro cyclists and other athletes were permitted to travel together back to Europe on a charter flight a couple of weeks ago. Seriously injured Froome out of Tour de France after training fall It did not take the Colombians long to get back to winning ways – with the UAE Emirates team sprinter Fernando Gaviria taking a stage victory in the Vuelta a Burgos. This was his first race since being struck down with Covid-19 during the UAE Tour in February, a race which was halted mid-flow and where the entire race entourage was quarantined in their hotels. Organisers will be hoping to not see the same thing happen again this time around.