Look Mum, I'm a Bike Racer! The first race back in Corona times
Whilst racing has been low on everyone’s priority list over the past couple months, and almost every race on the calendar fell victim to the Coronavirus pandemic, when we got the opportunity to book our place on a start line (Chatel Chablais Leman Race) we jumped at the opportunity. We knew it would be different, and that we would have to respect a variety of new rules, but we felt confident that if the organisation had been given the go-ahead then it was safe for us to race.
On the menu was my first ever bike race, 150km with six climbs for 3100M of climbing. Not the easiest introduction to bike racing, but I was up for it.
Since it was our first race back since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic we thought it would be interesting to write about the event and share our experience of the ‘new normal’.
RACING IN CORONA TIMES
We knew that the race was going to be subject to constraints due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the course had been changed specifically for this reason to avoid crossing the Swiss border (with a peloton of 500 and public gatherings of over 300 people not being permitted in Switzerland).
Prior to arriving at the race village on Saturday we had received strict instructions by e-mail with regards to hygiene practices and disease prevention strategies that had to be respected. Everyone had to wear a mask whilst present at the race village, unless sat at one of the tables for lunch, and volunteers were present at all touch points (entrance, bib collection, catering) to provide disinfectant for our hands.
Arriving to collect our bibs the race village was eerily empty, it seemed everyone was doing a whistle stop tour to collect their bib and minimise the time spent wearing a mask and in a public space. Whilst this goes against the normal atmosphere you experience prior to a race; it was a relief to see that people were respecting the instructions and conscious of the need to minimise contact time with strangers.
Heading to the start line on race morning we all had to wear a mask and were only allowed to remove it once we crossed the start line. For the first time ever in France, queues had been organised in front of the toilets, with markers on the floor identifying the social distancing requirements, and disinfectant was provided at all touch points.
Once the race got underway it was very much business as usual, the only difference to the norm being that feed stations could only provide bottled water and you had to handle and dispose of the bottles yourself.
Finally, after the race we were requested to put a mask on again immediately after the finish line, and masks remained the requirement throughout the race village except if you were eating at a table.
Across the board, the event organisers did a great job in communicating the requirements we had to respect before and after the race in order to prevent the spreading of the disease, but the reality is once the race was underway it’s impossible to respect Social Distancing and prevent everyone from spitting or clearing their nose. For me, the takeaway was clearly that racing is possible despite these restrictions, but that the success of the restrictions is only as good as the behaviour of those they apply to. Here’s hoping we can get back on a few more start lines soon!