Coronavirus: UCI suspends all road cycling until at least end of April

By Sports Desk March 18, 2020

All road cycling events until at least the end of April have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Union Cycliste International (UCI) announced on Wednesday.

Just three days after announcing a suspension on all events until April 3, the UCI extended the hiatus in the calendar following a meeting with race organisers, teams and riders.

The resumption date will be reviewed during the intervening period, with events on the calendar at that point, the three Grand Tours and the sport's Monuments to be given priority in any rescheduling procedure.

The Giro d'Italia, which was due to start on May 9, has already been postponed, while the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and Liege-Bastogne-Liege - three of the five Monuments - will no longer take place as planned.

A UCI statement read: "With this decision, cycling wishes to be able to guarantee the visibility of our sport, which will find itself in competition with other major international sports events, while ensuring the best possible exposure for the most-viewed races.

"Moreover, the UCI would like to make clear that the men and women's road season may be extended until November 1, 2020.

"The principle of flexibility could also be envisaged when it comes to the number of cyclists entered by teams at events.

"These decisions will be submitted to the UCI management committee and the Professional Cycling Council (PCC) for approval.

"Finally, the UCI proposed that cycling's stakeholders hold regular meetings to better anticipate the resumption when the time comes.

"For disciplines other than road, the UCI will make a detailed announcement at a later date."

Mitchelton-Scott, Movistar, Astana and Jumbo-Visma were among a host of teams to pull out of races at the start of March due to the coronavirus outbreak.

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    Elite sport is gradually returning to our screens amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    Germany's Bundesliga, the UFC and the NRL were among the first top-level events to forge a route back last month after pausing due to the global crisis.

    A clutch of Europe's other top football leagues, cricket, motorsport and the United States' major competitions all have designs on behind-closed-doors resumptions in the near future, too, which could create a significant backlog of crucial fixtures.

    One positive is that sports fans might now be treated to a number of colossal match-ups back-to-back on the same day at some point over the coming months.

    That prospect gives us the opportunity to reflect on five similar occasions with the greatest sporting days since the turn of the century - including one exactly a year ago.

     

    JULY 23, 2000

    The US had a day to remember as two of their most prominent stars bolstered their still burgeoning reputations with big victories on foreign soil.

    The paths of Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong have subsequently diverged a little, however.

    Woods became the youngest player to complete golf's career grand slam with a record-breaking victory at The Open in 2000, while Armstrong wrapped up a second straight Tour de France title.

    The American duo stood at the top of the world, yet history will recall Armstrong's achievements rather differently now he has been stripped of each of his seven successive yellow jerseys for doping.

    Woods at least maintained his high standards and held all four major titles after the 2001 Masters, winning again at Augusta as recently as last year.

    FEBRUARY 1, 2004

    Two more sporting greats shared the same special page in the calendar early in 2004.

    It was a long day for anyone who took in both Roger Federer's performance in Melbourne's Australian Open final and Tom Brady's Super Bowl display in Houston, but they were duly rewarded.

    Twenty-time grand slam champion Federer had won just one major before facing down Marat Safin in Australia, also becoming the ATP Tour's top-ranked player for the first time. He stayed at number one for a record-shattering 237 weeks.

    Brady similarly then doubled his tally of Super Bowl rings by delivering a second triumph in three years for the Patriots, in what was a classic encounter against the Carolina Panthers.

    Brady threw for 354 yards and three touchdowns, before Adam Vinatieri's field goal secured a 32-29 win with four seconds remaining.

    AUGUST 4-5, 2012

    One would struggle to find a greater array of star-studded athletes of various sports than those who congregated in London across the penultimate weekend of the 2012 Olympic Games.

    On the Saturday evening, at the Aquatics Centre, swimming prepared to say goodbye to its greatest name. Michael Phelps and the United States won the 4x100m medley, clinching his 18th gold medal in what appeared set to be his final race.

    Indeed, Phelps confirmed his retirement following the Games, only to return in predictably dominant fashion in 2016.

    Across the city that same night, Team GB athletes were capping a stunning run of medals that would see the day dubbed "Super Saturday". There were six home golds in all, including big wins for Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah in quick succession.

    The drama only continued the next day, too, as Andy Murray finally sealed a Wimbledon win over Federer in the tennis event, while Usain Bolt lit up London Stadium in the 100m.

    JUNE 1, 2019

    It is 12 months to the day since another epic sporting stretch, one that concluded in stunning fashion with one of boxing's great modern upsets.

    Rugby union and football each had their respective turns in the spotlight earlier, with Saracens following up their European Champions Cup success - a third in four years - by retaining the Premiership title with victory over Exeter Chiefs.

    In Madrid, two more English teams were in action as Liverpool edged past Tottenham in the Champions League final.

    But as Sarries and the Reds celebrated, focus turned towards Madison Square Garden where Anthony Joshua was expected to make light work of Andy Ruiz Jr, a replacement for Jarrell Miller following a failed drugs test.

    The heavyweight title match did not go to script, however, as Ruiz floored Joshua four times and forced a stoppage to claim his belts, albeit only until the rematch where the Briton saved face.

    JULY 14, 2019

    These crazy spectacles have largely seen sport spread throughout the day, but three sets of eyes were required to keep up with the action on an epic afternoon last July.

    With England hosting and then reaching the Cricket World Cup final, the scene-stealing decider fell on the same day as the Wimbledon men's final and the British Grand Prix, ensuring the United Kingdom was the focus of the sporting world.

    The cricket started off several hours before either the tennis or the F1 but still managed to outlast its rival events, with Ben Stokes determined to put on a show as England won via a dramatic Super Over at the end of a nine-hour saga against New Zealand.

    Novak Djokovic was battling Stokes for attention as he was taken all the way by that man Federer at the All England Club before finally prevailing 7-6 (7-5) 1-6 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 13-12 (7-3) in the tournament's longest singles final.

    The respective classics made the British GP, completed earlier in the day, something of an afterthought - but not for Lewis Hamilton, who claimed a record sixth victory.

  • I could be a piece of s*** like Floyd Landis - Armstrong addresses old grudges in new documentary I could be a piece of s*** like Floyd Landis - Armstrong addresses old grudges in new documentary

    Lance Armstrong has expressed remorse towards some of those hurt while covering up his multiple drug offences but still harbours animosity towards former team-mate Floyd Landis.

    Armstrong is the subject of a new ESPN documentary LANCE, where he assesses his fall from grace on the back of being handed a lifetime ban from cycling in 2012, when a United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) investigation led to him being stripped of the Tour de France victories he claimed from 1999 to 2005.

    The 48-year-old cancer survivor accepts his treatment of Emma O'Reilly, the former soigneur on Armstrong's US Postal team and an early whistleblower in his case, and Italian cyclist Filippo Simeoni, who testified against Armstrong's now-disgraced doctor Michele Ferrari, was unacceptable.

    However, he is unflinching when it comes to Landis – the 2006 Tour winner who was subsequently banned for doping before lifting the lid on Armstrong's regime and ultimately starting the chain of events that would bring about his downfall.

    "Hey, it could be worse. I could be Floyd Landis," Armstrong told ESPN. "Waking up a piece of s*** every day. 

    "That's what I know. I don't think it, I know it."

    Along with prompting the USADA investigation that would conclude Armstrong and US Postal had run "the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program that sport has ever seen", Landis also filed a lawsuit alleging Armstrong and the team had defrauded the federal government by taking US Postal Service sponsorship money while cheating.

    Armstrong reached a $5million settlement in 2018.

    "I hope he's changed and I hope he finds some peace. I don't know why people can't move on, but here we are," Landis told ESPN.

    "At the time that I got hired by the Postal Service team they had already won the Tour de France three times with Armstrong. He was about as big a star as you could be at that point. That part made it easier for Armstrong to control that group of guys. He was the boss.

    "Lance is a tough, hard motherf*****, but the rest of them were not. So they'll just take whatever beatings they get and smile."

    Another of Armstrong's old colleagues, Tyler Hamilton, painted a similarly uncompromising picture and alleged the Texan was complicit in him being caught and banned for doping.

    "In 2004 at the Dauphine I beat him in this time trial up Mont Ventoux," said Hamilton, who was riding for Phonak at the time, having accompanied Armstrong on his first three Tour victories.

    "I've heard from sources that he was p***** and he called the UCI – this is what I was told – and said 'you've got to get this guy'.

    "And, sure enough, they called that night. I don't know, most likely it happened.

    "If I had to guess one way or the other I'd guess 'yes', [Armstrong] was something to do with me getting caught."

    Armstrong does not address that allegation directly in the film, although he confirmed he wanted Tyler off the US Postal squad once he learnt of his Tour ambitions.

    "You don't want that guy on your team. A guy on your team who thinks he can win the Tour? No – there's the door," he said.

    Elsewhere, Armstrong suggested he was probably party to favourable treatment from the late UCI president Hein Verbruggen.

    During the 1999 Tour, in the aftermath of the Festina doping scandals, Armstrong returned a positive cortisone test, which was covered up by a backdated prescription for saddle soreness that his team provided.

    "If the question is 'how much did you have Hein Verbruggen in your pocket?' there's a lot of different ways to answer that," he said. "Financially… zero.

    "He's no longer with us to answer this question himself but do I believe that Hein wanted to protect the sport? Yes. Protect me? Yes.

    "He was coming off the heels of Festina. The world is following the story of this cancer survivor and then bam, a headline, cortisone found in his urine sample. 

    "That type of cortisone was available a lot of different ways. You could inject it, you could have eyedrops, you could have a nasal spray, or you could have a cream.

    "He's using the cream for saddle sores. And so Hein just [Armstrong claps hands, rubs them together]... It's like, that's it."

    *** LANCE is available on ESPN Player throughout the UK, Europe and Africa from May 25th***

  • Lance Armstrong: I first cheated aged 21 Lance Armstrong: I first cheated aged 21

    Disgraced cycling star Lance Armstrong has admitted he first used performance-enhancing drugs aged 21.

    Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and handed a lifetime ban in 2012 following a United States Anti-Doping Agency investigation.

    Having denied cheating repeatedly throughout his career, Armstrong belatedly admitted to using banned substances during a January 2013 interview with Oprah Winfrey.

    The legitimacy of the American's achievements had long been the subject of conjecture after he came back from testicular cancer to dominate cycling's blue ribband event from 1999 to 2005.

    However, in the new ESPN documentary LANCE, the 48-year-old confirmed his history with illegal drugs stretched back much further to his maiden campaign as a professional.

    "In terms of crossing the line, to something that [you would be punished for] if you admitted it or tested positive, then that wouldn't have been until 21 years old," he told ESPN. "My first professional season.

    "At that time in the sport it was cortisone, or cortisone pre-cursors, or drugs that stimulate your body's own production of cortisone. 

    "It was just ingrained in the culture of the sport."

    Armstrong is most infamous for his use of EPO and working alongside controversial doctor Michele Ferrari – describing the blood-boosting agent as "a whole other level" and "rocket fuel" compared to the "low-octane doping" of cortisone.

    In the documentary, he also conceded to using human growth hormone (HGH) during 1996 and pondered whether this was a factor in his cancer diagnosis.

    "You know, I don't know the answer to that," he said. "I don't want to say no, because I don't think that's right either. I don't know if it's yes or no, but I certainly wouldn't say no.

    "The only thing I will tell you is, the only time in my life, that I ever did growth hormone, was the 1996 season.

    "And so just in my head, I'm like, growth… growing hormones and cells, like… if anything good needs to be grown, it does. But wouldn't it also make sense that if anything bad, is there, that it too would grow?" 

    Following his return to professional cycling in 1998, Armstrong insisted he had no concerns over the potential adverse effects of a cancer survivor using EPO.

    "In many ways - and this is not going to be a popular answer - EPO is a safe drug," he said. "Assuming certain things, assuming [it is] taken properly, taken under the guidance of a medical professional, taken in conservative amounts.

    "There are far worse things you can put in your body."

    Armstrong believes his considerable fall from grace and resulting absence from the public eye might have actually brought benefits, particularly for his family.

    "The last five years has really caused me to pause and try to understand, not just myself but what this story meant to other people, what this story meant to the world," he said.

    "And you know, that's a heavy thing to think about. I never knew the story was as big as it was. I knew it was big, but I didn't know it was that big.

    "If I was competing today, I could tell you who my peers would be. My peers would be Michael Phelps, LeBron James, and so I see where they are… and so only now do I realise, 'that's where you were'.

    "That's where I was. I really don't miss that. And I think, if I'd stayed there, it wouldn't have been good for my family." 

    *** LANCE is available on ESPN Player throughout the UK, Europe and Africa from May 25th***

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