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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, March 28, 2020

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2019 Tour de France | 2019 Giro d'Italia

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Steven Kruijswijk: "I’m not even allowed to cycle outside in France, so how can I prepare for the Tour?"

This is from Kruijswijk's Jumbo-Visma team:

Hundreds of thousands of people cheered him to the Tour stage last year. Will he cycle his next Tour de France without a crowd, as is suggested in France? Steven Kruijswijk can hardly imagine this. “Even without a crowd, the Tour remains a travelling circus with lots of people”, Kruijswijk says in an interview with Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad.

Steven Kruijswijk

Steven Kruijswijk racing in the 2018 Vuelta. Sirotti photo

He’s not allowed to leave Monaco. His last outdoor cycling training was on March 17th. A 145 kilometre ride with 3450 altimeters. To the north, into the foothills of the Alps. And back via Menton, along the Mediterranean. Since then, Steven Kruijswijk has been training indoors on fitness platform Zwift because of the lockdown. Virtual rides, on the fantasy island of Watopia, without actually moving a metre.

“How long can you keep that up?”, he wonders. “I’ve never been a fan of it. Cycling really is an outdoor sport for me. On the road. Cycling inside is a fallback solution.”

And yet he is forced to prepare himself this way for the coming weeks for what may remain of the cycling season, decapitated by corona. The Tour de France - where he finished third last year behind Egan Bernal and Geraint Thomas - is still on the calendar. The dreamed sports summer is already broken after the postponement of the Summer Olympics and the European Football Championships, but in France they are still counting on the green light for the Tour, which should start on Saturday 27 June in Nice, a few kilometres from Kruijswijk’s apartment.

If necessary without a crowd, the French Minister of Sports Roxana Maracineanu said. “As far as I’m concerned I’d rather not”, Kruijswijk responded to the proposal to race without a crowd. Is that a solution that justifies going on a tour? Call your shot... At least we’ll have something to show on television, but is it realistic?”

Kruijswijk hesitates very much. For purely practical reasons, but also because he doubts whether such a large event can be organised again in three months’ time, even without a crowd. “Then everything must be safe and there must be no more health risks. Then it would be possible”, Jumbo-Visma’s ace classification rider thinks. “But even then there shouldn’t be a risk that we, as a Tour, will be able to get the distribution going again. Because without a crowd you’re still talking about a traveling circus of more than 1000 people. And that’s still a lot of people together.”

A lot is being said and written now, especially because it is hoped en masse that the summer will not be robbed of the Tour as well, Kruijswijk notes. But if we don’t know for sure until three weeks in advance that it’s going to happen, how are we supposed to prepare ourselves? A tour like that, you normally work towards it for a year. But maybe we should keep training inside until then. How do they think we’ll be on the right level, later on? Maybe this is a bit naive of the minister and the organisation... Because you can postpone, postpone and postpone. But preparation is also part of a competition.”

And that preparation, which already resembles nothing more than the campaigns the rider of the Dutch province of Brabant has been running in recent years on the way to the main goal in July. “I’m not allowed to ride outside in France and Monaco at all, now. You can’t even do that, it’s not allowed. That doesn’t make it easy. Because how long can you keep that up, train inside? A week I can do. But you don’t even know what you’re doing it for. What if the whole season’s canceled? That’s a lot of uncertainty. Motivation is hard to find”, Kruijswijk admits.

With his family he’s inside, between four walls. “I now realise even better how hard it is for my wife to give the children enough attention when I’m away. The kids now don’t even understand why they can’t go outside. That doesn’t alter the fact that I can enjoy all those moments together, but I would have preferred to do it under different circumstances.”

Zdenek Stybar: “Not having any races is more difficult than I thought”

Stybar's Deceuninck-Quick Step team posted this interview:

One year ago, Zdenek Stybar became the first non-Belgian rider in more than three decades to win both Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and E3 Harelbeke in the same year, after another tactical masterpiece from Deceuninck – Quick-Step. His two victories in the space of just four weeks contributed to another magnificent spring campaign for our team, who dominated again the cobbles, putting a stronghold on almost all the pavé races from the end of February until mid-April.

Zdenek Stybar

Zdenek Stybar wins the 2019 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Entering his tenth year in the colours of Deceuninck – Quick-Step, Stybar was poised to be again a key protagonist in the one-day races he loves so much, especially after enjoying a strong start to the season at January’s Vuelta a San Juan, where he spectacularly captured a stage victory following another canny trademark attack. Unfortunately for the entire cycling community, the coronavirus pandemic put a stop to the season for an indefinite period, cancelling or postponing many events, including the one-day races, our squad’s bread and butter, and sending the riders into confinement.

While at home, where he divides his time between his family and staying fit, the 34-year-old Czech talked of his 2019 Spring Classics campaign – his finest yet – and dealing with this climate of uncertainty that has surrounded the entire world and the impact it has had so far.

Zdenek, one year has passed since your E3 win. How important was that success for you?

It’s unbelievable how fast time flies. Now that I think of it, it feels like it was yesterday. What I can say is that it was one of my nicest victories, because E3 Harelbeke – besides being a hard event – is one of the most important and beautiful races on the calendar, one which I had always dreamed of winning.

Looking back, how was that race?

Everything fell into place that day. After doing Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milano-Sanremo, I knew I had good legs, but you also need some luck, which this time was on my side, as everything went smoothly. Our team came into the race with a plan and we executed it perfectly. Before the Stationberg, I told Bob to just attack if he felt strong, and his move was an important one, as it allowed me to just follow the other riders. Of course, they didn’t give it to me for free, as they tried to put me in the wind, but I felt very good and could respond to their manoeuvres. When we caught Bob with just a couple of kilometers to go, he still dug deep and worked for me, and his help was instrumental in the victory I got. I will never forget this and I hope that one day I will repay him for that.

By becoming the first non-Belgian rider in 38 years to conquer both Omloop and E3 in the same season you wrote a small page of history.

It’s an honour to achieve something like this in these revered Belgian races and it makes me quite proud. Now when there’s no more racing, I appreciate it even more. Who knows, maybe one day I will become the first rider to win Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Ronde van Vlaanderen in the same year, that would be something!

Normally, today you should have been on the cobbles, defending your title.

That’s true. I worked very hard for this and tried to be in the best possible shape for this period of the season, just like the other riders who trained to reach their peak for these races. My winter was very good, I got that early win in Argentina, I was hungry to race and obtain good results, and in Paris-Nice I felt that my condition was good and on an upward trajectory. That made me super confident that Flanders and Roubaix would find me in one of the best shapes of my life. Now, sadly, it’s all gone and all that we can do is keep the hope things will return to normal soon.

Is it difficult to cope, from both a mental and physical point of view, with this situation and the uncertainty?

To be without races it’s harder than I thought. Physically, not so much, but mentally it’s not easy. I was really looking forward to these weeks on the cobbles and right now I should have been on the top of my game, but nothing is left now and all I can do is try to adapt to that. Of course, I continue to train, although I don’t put 200km rides anymore, but training without any goals is very difficult and frustrating. At the same time, this gives you a whole new perspective and you understand it’s not about cycling anymore. It’s about the real life and there were so many people who got hit harder by what’s happening now, and it makes you think about them and how the whole world struggles.

You understand that it goes beyond sports and how important it is in this kind of moments to help each other stay strong and overcome these tough times, be it with a small gesture or a kind word, which at the end of the day can mean the world to them and make the difference.

What are you doing to fill your time?

Like I said, I am training every day alone, because I don’t want to lose the rhythm. I don’t want to stop, so I train to keep the shape as much as I can. Other than that, I spend more time with my son, which is really nice. Usually, I have a suitcase with me all the time, but now it’s gone, I’ve put it in the basement, and it’s kind of strange not to see it in the house. But, as I said, being at home has its advantages and I am enjoying the time I get to spend with my family, which I am grateful for, while keeping the confidence that racing will resume sooner, rather than later, this year.

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