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Waiting for the Sky to Fall  

Samuel Abt Tekst Samuel Abt Gepubliceerd 25 June 2020

Chicken Little, fit as a fiddle, ready and able, reporting for duty.

Ah, yes, Chicken Little, sometimes known as Henny Penny, who warned us far and wide that the sky was falling.

That one, yes. It’s fair to say I loudly sounded the alert, screeching for all to hear that the end was upon us.

It seems now that it wasn’t. It seems now that a single acorn fell on your head and from that you extrapolated doomsday.

Got it a bit wrong, you feel? Mea culpa. My bad. Frowning emoji. You never make a mistake?

A mistake of this magnitude? The show must not go on, you insisted, citing warnings of the spread of the coronavirus among crowds of Tour de France spectators. Although reluctantly, you wrote, the French would accept the loss of the sport in the short term to balance long-term benefits to society. And what do we see now, Chicken Little, as restrictions are being rolled back and racing is scheduled to move from virtual reality to the road itself with throngs of spectators?

I’m afraid we still see the sky falling. Big time. Just not quite yet. Even Bernard Hinault, not often celebrated as the voice of moderation, is warning that the spread of the virus because of crowds is an unacceptable risk in a swift resumption of the sport. 

I’m afraid we still see the sky falling. Big time.

For a dissenting view, let’s turn to Marc Madiot, honcho of the Groupama-FDJ team in France and an outspokenly conservative voice in the response to the threat of renewed virus. With top-notch racing scheduled to start on August 1 with Strade Bianche and little time thereafter before the Tour de France heads off on August 29, Madiot says the riders will have to be ready to race and be primed to race a lot.

“There will be no catch-up sessions, as the season will be short and tight. It will be necessary to be as ready as possible to tackle the end of the season in good conditions,” he said in a team interview in mid-June, according to Cyclingnews.

“They may not be 100 per cent from August 1, but they will have to be ready overall,” Madiot said. “It is not possible that everything will be perfect,” he admitted.

“There will inevitably be some hitches in terms of organisation, calendar, with slightly less good events in terms of participation, with races not unfolding just quite the same as in the past.” But all that is not a big deal. “You have to see the bright side of things: life starts up again, races start up again, we haven’t given up and we’re back in the races.”

Looking far ahead to Oct. 25, when planners say Paris-Roubaix, the Giro d’Italia, and the Vuelta a España will all overlap, Madiot sounded ecstatic.

“It will be a ‘Super Sunday’ of cycling,” he frothed. “Imagine a cycling fan! He’ll almost need to have three screens at home. I even think that there can be a special communication on a day like this. It’s like England’s football games at Christmas: we’ll have our own Boxing Day! For logistics, we will sort it out. Even if the logistics were not to be exactly the same as usual, it would not be a disaster. Anyway, I want to live this day. It will be quite historical.”

Over to you, Chicken Little.

When The New York Times polled over 500 epidemiologists about when they’d feel comfortable returning to certain activities, only three percent said they would go to a “play/concert/sporting event” this summer. Thirty-two percent said they would wait three to twelve months before ending social distancing and 64 percent said they would wait at least a year.

Clear enough? Displayed on Zoom, with virtual spectators in photoshopped stadiums, high above it all, those skies may still be falling.

We’ll find out soon.

Cover photo: Cor Vos