“This lie is our hope”: Diary of a quarantined cyclist

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The organisers insist the Tour de France will be taking place in 2020. Jacopo Guarnieri isn’t so sure, but understands why ASO are saying the big show must go on

Photographs: Pauline Ballet / Thomas Colpaert / ASO
Tour de France 2020
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Jacopo Guarnieri is a WorldTour rider for Groupama-FDJ and Rouleur.cc columnist. Based in a town 100 kilometres south of the Italian city of Milan, he is documenting his experience since quarantine began on March 8.

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April 18

It’s now 42 days since quarantine started in Italy. Yes, this is the first sentence. Not so much to remind you all of how long we’ve been stuck at home, but more for myself since I have lost any perception of time passing. Sometimes I feel like I’ve been in this situation for years, at others it’s like it’s only just started. I don’t know what day of the week it is: I’ve already missed bin day twice.

When I’m in a positive mood, I associate this weird feeling with the fact that I am getting through quarantine quite well. But occasionally, I fear it’s due to apathy, as if I am on autopilot and every day repeats itself the same as the other without even realising it.

In reality, things have happened and changed – a lot, everywhere – and if we just narrow the focus, it’s the same in the world of cycling: the 2020 Olympics postponed (a historic event), races cancelled, teams beginning to struggle over money (really?) and suspending payment of their riders. In the modern era, we are living a first. Nobody was ready and even now that we are experiencing it, we understand very little. It will take a long time to know if the choices we are making are the right ones – and this applies to anything, not just cycling.

Will Jacopo’s team-mate, Thibaut Pinot, be soaring in September?

A few days ago, the Tour de France date was announced, soon to be followed by the World Championships. These are the two races around which the new calendar will be built – completely new, completely different, in order to survive.

It is a (not so) little lie to say that the Tour de France will start on August 29th in Nice. Not because the organisers don’t have a plan ready or because the riders and teams won’t participate; it’s a fib because we simply don’t know and we won’t have a way of knowing.

The virus could accelerate, it could slow down, but we don’t know. Will our international sport, with athletes and staff from all over the world, succeed? I think that saying there will be a Grand Depart on 29 August is more useful to dispel doubts and fears. This lie is our hope.

For us athletes, it will make us get up every morning, go training (God, please let it be outdoors soon!), do stretches after riding, sacrifice everything, as we always do, for our goal. If we overthink too much, we would risk losing motivation to do all that in the first place.

So it’s not stupidity, mine or a collective one. I know very well that there is a possibility that the Tour will not happen but this mental exercise is not much different from what I do every day to motivate myself: every time I clip into my pedals, in my mind there is the projection of what I want to do in the race, how I’ll want to lead out the sprint. And everything is perfect, we always win.

Of course, I know it won’t be like that, it’s just a little percentage of the whole season. There it is again, another little lie – just my way of giving my all every day.

Jacopo’s past entries
March 13: The waiting game – reflections on the UAE Tour and life under quarantine
March 20: Training in a deserted world
March 27: Boxsets, braking and bangers

Read more Rouleur articles by Groupama-FDJ pro cyclist Jacopo Guarnieri’s here


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