Swift Carbon boss fears for 2020 cycling season
Paul Lamb, of Swift Carbon – who race at UCI Continental level – believes the prospects for the rest of 2020 are bleak.
The Giro d’Italia, the first of cycling’s Grand Tour three-week stage races, has already been put on hold along with classic one-day events including Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
Swift Carbon’s number one target, the Tour de Yorkshire which was due to begin next month, has also been postponed, though organisers are still hopeful of finding a new date later in the year.
The road season stretches from late winter until the world championships in September and with everything up until the Criterium du Dauphine, set to start on May 31, having been postponed or cancelled, the sport is facing a write-off.
“The UCI have cancelled all races until further notice,” Lamb said of the governing body.
“People keep saying we are going to suspend it until April 1 or mid-May or whenever, but you know full well that’s way too early.
“We have got to follow what’s going on in society generally with the government. Things are becoming stricter, not looser, and we are nowhere near the peak yet.
“I think by the time it unravels it will be July or August and we’ll be saying what’s the point of starting up now?
“My view is that the season has gone, I just can’t see it starting up again this year.” Swift Carbon had just gone through their ‘pre-season’ when Covid-19 struck.
They defied appalling weather during a training camp in their home county before performing well in a race in Belgium.
Lamb reflected: “The guys were in good nick, we were in good shape and looking forward to our build-up races for the Tour de Yorkshire, which obviously has gone.
“We were due to ride the Tour of Taiwan at the end of February and that was cancelled.
“That was the early days of the coronavirus situation and the race organiser was still trying to encourage us to go, but we would have had to spend a bit of time in quarantine in Hong Kong and we decided it was a bad idea.
“This week we should have been in the Tour of Romandie and next month was the Tour du Loire-et-Cher, another French race.”
With no competitive cycling taking place, Swift Carbon’s riders have been able to train alone or with one team-mate and they are also hoping to compete in indoor ‘virtual’ races.
Lamb admitted: “We are trying to keep the guys motivated, but it is so hard.
“How do you keep guys in peak condition, and motivated?
“It is very difficult and we are having to be super-creative about what we do.”
Finance is also a concern, as Lamb explained: “We rely primarily on sponsorship and businesses across the board are all struggling.
“We are trying to find ways to continue to promote our brand and have lots of brand engagements with our sponsors in the hope that when we come out the other side we are in a good position and, hopefully, we have kept our sponsors happy so we can kick on again and start again in 2021.
“That is my long-term view.”
In terms of the team itself, Lamb confirmed, though they do have “two, three or four” riders who are paid, most of the squad ride for free.
“The guys who do that are generally the ones who live at home or who are at university,” he said.
“They get a full package of bike, equipment, UCI racing and all the rest of it.
“The sport has a tough model already, relying on sponsorship. It is struggling as it is and what is going to happen beyond this, I don’t know. There is talk that some World Tour teams might go out of business because the sponsors are getting nothing this year. I think we will survive at our level, but it is becoming increasingly difficult unless partners get on board.”