Dr. Leszek J. Sibilski is a Professor of Sociology and longtime advocate for issues related to climate change, the environment or public policy. But he is also a former member of the Polish National Olympic Cycling Team and continues to serve as an active member of the International Pierre de Coubertin Committee. For TrackPiste it is an honor to have this collaboration about the viability of the season in indoor velodromes.
At the same
time, cycling media repeated and reiterated information about track event
cancelations. There were no six-day races or any other events on velodromes,
with only a handful of exceptions. The powerful track teams with long reserve
benches started to compete internally—keeping everyone tied to physical
distancing and mask-wearing. But what if the reserve bench is short or
non-existent? For some, it worked out; others, not. In most cases, infected
riders did not advertise this fact for obvious reasons. Blind honesty, in this
case, compromised team competitiveness.
season is already starting to experience some cancellations, but some race
organizers got a green light from local authorities to allow the elite cyclists
to begin to compete.
there is a deafening silence regarding the spring and summer track seasons. We
are less than six months from the Tokyo Olympics. All the major players in
organizing the Games of the XXXII Olympiad keep telling us that the Games must
and will go on.
proceeding, I quote Emanuel Goldman, recorder in The Lancet, a weekly
peer-reviewed general medical journal: "The evidence is now clear.
#SARSCoV2 is transmitted predominantly through the air — by people talking and
breathing out large droplets and small particles called aerosols. Catching the
virus from surfaces — although plausible — seems to be rare."
indoor velodromes scheduled to host the 2021 UCI Track Cycling Nations Cup in
Newport (Wales) and Hongkong are solidly closed indoor venues (with only Cali
(Colombia) as an exception—having retractable walls for air ventilation). In
late June, Minsk (Belarus) will be hosting the European Track Cycling
Championships at the sealed indoor velodrome.
velodrome in Izu is an indoor track as well. In October, the UCI World
Championships will be hosted in Ashgabat (Turkmenistan), again in a closed
indoor velodromes are like whirlpools with close air (droplets) circulation,
making riders vulnerable to infection while competing and breathing-in infected
air. They can’t wear masks while racing.
In the fall of 2020, Fiorenzuola (Italy) hosted a packed Junior and U-23 European Track Championships for women and men in an open concrete velodrome. To my knowledge, this event was quite successful without being labeled a Covid-19 superspreader. In the end, organizers experienced rain delays, but with minimal effect on the event’s flow.
the organizers of October’s Worlds Championships in Ashgabat are determined to
provide the vaccination to participating teams, but how this will unfold
logistically has yet to be seen.
to prevent shattering all those riders' Olympic dreams which stewed in
isolation for an extra year, perhaps, the UCI should select open or track
covered velodromes as backup venues? This would allow riders to arrive at the
Izu velodrome ready to break records—while in good health. The 2021 track
season begs us for new safety interventions. This notion requires in-depth
discussion and candid speech from the global track cycling community;
sometimes, speed must heed health. A few hours or even a day of delay,
especially after being confined to an Olympic waiting room for a year, will
hurt nobody. I already spoke with several people who encourage me to write
this situation inspires a velodrome’s construction with a retractable
roof—similar to tennis—where matches are played regardless of the weather.
Photos, by Dr. Leszek J. Sibilski, in Milton World Cup 2020.