How an app is helping draw riders, sponsors and public together during lockdown

THE ECONOMIC downturn forecast to follow Covid-19 is a serious concern for the sport of cycling, but performance coach Dean Downing believes a willingness to adapt holds the key to survival and future success.

Doncaster Cycle Festival. Dean Downing. Picture: Malcolm Billingham

Based around trade teams, cycling is heavily reliant on big-money sponsors and the prospect of a world wide recession is a huge concern to the sport.

However, technology, particularly the Zwift indoor training app, has provided a way for teams to continue competing and interact with financial backers and fans during the sport’s shutdown.

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Downing is a full-time coach at Yorkshire-based Downing Cycling, mentoring a stable of 30 riders.

He fears some backers will inevitably pull out, but is confident teams have begun “re-focusing” to meet the tough challenges ahead.

“One of the women’s World Tour teams, Bigla-KATUSHA, have already lost sponsorship,” pointed out the 45-year-old former Great Britain rider, from Rotherham. “That is tough, but then other teams have reinvented themselves.

“Look at what Team Ineos did with the Zwift platform, they had a massive ride and invited everybody to ride with all 30 riders.

“After that, they had a race up a virtual L’Alpe d’Huez [one of the most iconic Tour de France climbs] and I saw an article which said that reached nearly 500,000 people around the world.

“That, there, is sponsorship refocused and changed.

“Certain teams are doing it right and will gain sponsorship return on investment from it, but other teams may not do it so well and may lose sponsors because they have lost income.

“It is a pretty tough time.”

The UCI, world cycling’s governing body, hopes to resume a shortened season from August 1, cramming 100 days of racing into 15 weeks.

“It has been a big refocusing period for my coaching business and the riders I work with,” said Downing of the time since the sport was suspended back in March.

“A lot of the riders I coach have taken the opportunity to race indoors on Zwift; that has been very exciting and they have been doing very well.

“A lot of the World Tour teams have embraced re-focusing and changing.

“Currently they’ve got a Tour For All on Zwift and every single World Tour team is doing it.

“They are all making sure they aren’t letting all the hard work they’ve done go to waste.”

Downing Cycling have taken advantage of technology while riders have been unable to gather face to face.

Downing said: “We have had virtual meet-ups, for some close friends who are cyclists and the majority of my coached riders, as well.

“We have about 30 people on there, all in their garage or front room, on their computer, riding together.

“That has gone down really well and it has created a bit more of a community among Downing Cycling and helped keep morale up.”

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