|SPECIAL EDITION |
In this special edition of the UCI Newsletter devoted to the new coronavirus (Covid-19), you will find a reminder of the various measures taken and announced by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) in response to the current health situation.
In addition, Professor Xavier Bigard, UCI Medical Director, provides an update on the current status of the pandemic and gives advice to athletes to prevent any risk of infection.
As the world governing body of cycling, the UCI places the safety of athletes and all those involved in cycling as a top priority and calls for solidarity and participation in the measures by all members of the cycling community: athletes, teams, organisers, partners, media, volunteers and the public. We all have a role to play in overcoming the pandemic and must work together to best prepare for the resumption of the cycling season, which we all hope will in the very near future.
Measures taken by the UCI for all cycling disciplines
Faced with the accelerated spread of the coronavirus and the restrictive measures taken by a number of countries within Europe and beyond, prohibiting gatherings and movement of people, the UCI has, in the past few weeks, put in place a series of strong measures with the aim of ensuring the maximum protection of health of all those involved in cycling events, and sporting equity between participants.
The measures taken are as follows:
–The safety of athletes being a priority mission of the UCI, organisers have been expressly requested to cancel any cycling event on the UCI International Calendar in territories identified at risk by the WHO.
–Suspension of all classifications for all events on the UCI International Calendar, across all disciplines, at least until 30 April 2020, to ensure sporting equity between athletes.
–No events on the men and women’s UCI International Road Calendar will be held at least until the end of April. In view of resuming the cycling season, priority will be given to events on the calendar at the date of the resumption and, with regards to the men’s calendar, depending on the space available and taking into consideration the possibility of overlapping, to the three Grands Tours and cycling’s Monuments.
–Possible extension of the men and women’s road season to until 1 November 2020.
–For the postponement of events in all disciplines other than road, once the season resumes, priority will be given in order to the UCI World Championships, UCI World Cups, Continental Championships, National Championships and then events on the UCI International Calendar.
–Closure of the UCI World Cycling Centre (WCC) buildings, which house the International Federation’s headquarters. A business continuity plan was put in place by activating home office work for the 120 staff members working for the UCI and the UCI WCC.
–Repatriation of the UCI WCC athletes to their respective countries and families in compliance with public health rules related to international travel and movement.It is important to note that as the situation is constantly evolving. In order to facilitate the monitoring of the calendar and to have a clear picture of the main UCI events (UCI World Championships and UCI World Cups), and the UCI WorldTour and UCI Women’s WorldTour events, lists of the races affected are now available on the UCI website. These will be updated daily and will soon be extended to include all UCI International Calendar events postponed or cancelled.
Lists of UCI events postponed or cancelled (by discipline):
-UCI road events
-UCI para-cycling road events
-UCI mountain bike events
-UCI BMX Racing events
-UCI BMX Freestyle events
-UCI indoor cycling events.
Furthermore, the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, and the Japanese Prime Minister, Abe Shinzo, announced that the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games should be rescheduled after 2020, but no later than the summer of 2021, in order to safeguard the health of the athletes, all those involved in the preparation of the Olympic Games and members of the international community. The UCI welcomes this decision and remains in close contact with the IOC to adjust its qualification process to the decisions taken concerning the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Please note that the test events for BMX Freestyle and Track have also been postponed.
In the meantime, the UCI will remain in regular contact with the National Federations and all its stakeholders via this special newsletter, which will provide updates on the latest developments where useful.
Update on the COVID-19 pandemic
We are all living in very difficult times, marked by uncertainty, doubt, anxiety, fear, and feelings of helplessness. This specific period we are going through has given a certain perspective on the organization of our societies, our health systems, and on the various strategies put in place to contain the spread of the virus… This is what explains, among other things, the role played by epidemics in human history, and the fact that these have been the subject of numerous novels, not only of science fiction, but also in classical literature.
When it comes to Covid-19, the disease generated by the novel coronavirus strain SARS-CoV-2, what appears true one day may not be a day later, so it is important not to be overly assertive when talking about specific characteristic of the pandemic.
Certain traits have now been ascertained and confirmed as the weeks go by, among other things:
-the transmission of the virus, which is essentially human-to-human, or more rarely via contaminated surfaces.
-the very high rate of transmission of the virus; it is estimated that a person carrying the virus transmits it to an average of 2.3 people.
-the very low prevalence of the disease among young people (just 1.5% of cases are under 20 years of age, and 8% between 20 and 29), and the high mortality among the elderly.the incubation period, which does not appear to have changed; this is the period between the entry of the virus into the body from the appearance of the first clinical signs. It varies from 1 to 14 days, with an average of around 5 days.the severity of the virus, which remains largely unchanged from the initial data to come out of China. It is estimated that 81% of those who contract the virus will have a mild to moderate case, 14% will have a clinical form requiring hospitalization, and 5% will have a critical form with respiratory distress syndrome. An average of 2% of patients will die. Most people for whom the virus proves fatal are elderly, frail, and/or suffering from chronic underlying medical conditions (diabetes, heart failure, respiratory, etc.).
Some new aspects have added to our knowledge of Covid-19, including:
-the control of the epidemic in China; only few new cases are now declared in China, both in Hubei province and the city of Wuhan, the origin of the epidemic.
-the rapid spread of the epidemic across all European and North American countries and the emergence of new cases in almost all African and South American countries, with every continent now affected. This led the WHO to declare on 12 March that the Covid-19 outbreak was officially a pandemic.
-observations made from China’s data suggest that the period of virus shedding (the period during which the patient is contagious) most often exceeds the duration of the illness; someone carrying the virus can be contagious for a period of 8 to 37 days, with an average of 20 days.
-treatment hopes, which are the subject of much debate; for the first time, the possibility of hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) is being discussed. This drug is widely used in the prevention of malaria and to treat certain inflammatory diseases, but with possible side effects. Despite interesting preliminary results, we must remain very careful about the use of this drug for the treatment of patients; a large European study currently under way, with the first results expected to be published very soon.
Currently the most effective strategy to combat SARS-CoV-2 is still the raft of individual measures that can be used to prevent direct contamination. These include:
-hand washing; this means of prevention may seem minor, but it is extremely effective when it comes to avoiding contamination. A number of simple rules should be followed, such as the use of hot water, soap, carefully washing between your fingers and cleaning for at least 20 to 30 seconds.
-social distancing; the aim is slowing the spread of the disease by keeping individuals a safe distance apart. It is also a recommendation, which is now becoming a requirement in some countries, often used as a last resort when no other measures are available. This should not be the case, as social distancing is extremely effective. The use of dynamic models that are perfectly valid in epidemiology has perfectly shown the limits of a total and forced quarantine; it turns out that it is almost impossible to completely separate the infected from the healthy population, and such a measure only slows down the spread of the disease. The measures to reduce public gatherings, strong stay-at-home messages, and minimising interactions with others, in other words: social distancing, appear more effective and realistic than authoritarian confinement at home. Maintaining an external activity for a part of the population (1/6 to 1/8), accompanied by a strict strategy of social distancing seems to be the most effective strategy for reducing the peak of the epidemic.
Guidelines for limiting the risk of infection with the new coronavirus
Although the prevalence of Covid-19 is low in young adults, there are situations in which athletes become more vulnerable to the risk of infection. There are several effective behavioral, nutritional and training strategies that can reduce the risk of infection in athletes.
Therefore, specific advice is useful to reduce the risk of contamination, while maintaining an essential level of practice to minimise the risk of detraining.
Protect yourself and others
The most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently, for at least 20-30 seconds each time, with warm water and using soap. Wash them regularly when you come home, before you eat and other times that you are touching surfaces. You can also use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth, because viruses can enter your body that way. Wipe down objects and surfaces frequently with household cleaner, which will kill the virus.
One of the most effective ways to slow the spread of viruses is social distancing. Social distancing is deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness. Staying at least 1.5 m away from other people lessens your chances of catching Covid-19. Social distancing also has consequences on physical training. In order to limit the risk of spread from person to person, it is therefore strongly recommended to train alone, and not in peloton.
Read more about protective measures against coronavirus on the World Health Organization website.
Physical training while minimising the susceptibility to infection
The effectiveness of the immune system against viruses is significantly affected after high intensity training sessions, in comparison to a normal training programme.
The training programme should be revised downwards, with a reduction in the workload of approximately 10-15%. As the workload depends on the intensity and duration of the exercises, the main emphasis will be on reducing the duration of the sessions, keeping the same intensity (above all without increasing it). For more specific, intense and relatively short sessions (HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training), the intensity of each exercise will be reduced by 10-15%.
In this period of emergency services overload in hospitals, and the risk of infection in healthcare facilities, prevention of the risk of crash is fundamental. Therefore in countries where confinement is not compulsory or for riders who are not self-isolated, training at home is highly recommended.
Appropriate nutrition to maintain an effective immune system
The composition of the diet and timing of food intake may also help provide protection against infections. The most effective nutritional strategies to maintain robust immune function during physical training are to ingest carbohydrate during exercise, protein after training sessions, and avoid deficiencies of essential micronutrients.
Carbohydrate ingestion (~30-60 g/h) during prolonged training sessions reduces the impact of metabolic stress on several aspects of immune function. During periods at risk of infection, training sessions performed in a fasting or with low-glycogen stores and without carbohydrate ingestion during exercise should be avoided.
Regular protein ingestion in meals throughout the day (~1.2-1.6 g/kg.day) and adequate protein intake soon after training sessions (~20-30 g) is required to attenuate some aspects of post-exercise immune depression and maintain normal immune function.
Given the potential role of vitamin D in regulating immune responses, monitoring the vitamin D status is important for athletes.
Consider including a variety of fruits and vegetables in your regular diet. Red fruits and vegetables (tomatoes, strawberries, cherries, pink grapefruit, etc.), greens (broccoli, cabbage, etc.), purple and blue fruits and vegetables (grapes, blackcurrants, plums, eggplants, etc.), yellow fruits and vegetables (apricots, pineapple, mango, grapefruit, peppers, etc.) are excellent vectors of antioxidant micronutrients such as vitamins A, C and E.
Does sportswear help spread the virus?
The risk of transmitting the new coronavirus from surfaces like clothing is a matter of debate. There is no direct measure of the stability of the new coronavirus on clothing. However, it seems that enveloped viruses, like the new coronavirus, are less stable on porous surfaces like cloth than on non-porous surfaces like plastic, paper and metals.
However, it is advisable to disinfect the clothes used during training, wash them in hot water and use a tumble dryer at high temperature.
Prevent the risk of viral myocarditis
Elite athletes may have an increased risk for viral infection and subsequent myocarditis. In athletes affected by myocarditis, the systemic inflammatory response is associated with an increased risk of sudden cardiac death.
The first step in preventing the risk of viral myocarditis in athlete is to abstain from intense training sessions in the event of fever, or within 8 days following a flu (fever, chills, myalgia, rhinitis, etc.). In the event of any suspected clinical sign of Covid-19 (i.e. fever, fatigue, dry cough), rest is absolutely imperative, and any intense physical exercise is strictly discouraged.