Pandemic hits elite level of cyclesport in the pocket

A study conducted by Strava and the Stanford University has shown that the Covid-19 pandemic has hit those in the elite levels of cyclesport financially, as well as raising mental health concerns.

As many as 71% of elite cyclists are concerned that the financial impact of the pandemic on their earnings may prove damaging, with many concerned they may not be reimbursed for their athletic activities.

Already 46% of those studied report a reduction in paid sponsorship opportunities and, worryingly, that figure is higher among female athletes at 54%.

The strain runs deeper too. Researchers asked questions about the mental impact on athletes in cyclesport and discovered that 22.5% reported feeling down or depressed, 28% nervous/anxious and 62% reported having difficulties exercising and maintaining a fitness routine.

Elinor Barker, Olympic gold medallist and multiple track cycling World Champion, commented: “It’s been an unusual year as a professional cyclist, and there’s definitely been an impact on training habits and routines – from facing greater isolation and missing your teammates, to battling through days lacking proper motivation, there’s been plenty of obstacles. Having no real competition to aim for, and with a lack of a proper challenge, I’ve had to find new ways to keep myself sharp and focused.

“Overall, I’ve actually managed to improve my fitness, as I’ve never had such a prolonged period of time dedicated solely to training. With no travel and competitions, suddenly I’ve had a proper off-season for the first time in my career – and I’ve made sure to make it count.

“Throughout the Covid-19 crisis I’ve felt well supported by my club and my teammates, and I’m hopeful that more broadly, governing bodies will do all in their power to provide a safety net for cyclists in this uncertain time.”

The increased isolation accounted for some of the mental strain. 54% of athletes trained with a partner 3 days a week or more before Covid-19 restrictions, compared to 21% during lockdown. 40% of athletes trained with a team at least one day per week before Covid-19 restrictions, compared to 12% during.

Senior Author, Stanford Professor and Sports Medicine Physician Dr. Michael Fredericson said, “This study’s findings will help guide our approach to maximizing health in elite athletes during this unprecedented time. While I am incredibly impressed with the fortitude in these professional athletes, we now have clear evidence of the toll this is taking on their mental health. Uncontrolled stress can lower the body’s immune response as well as impair the ability to recover fully from intense exercise, and we need to provide additional resources to help athletes address these challenges.”

To view the findings in full, head here. Elsewhere on CI.N today you can read about how sponsorship of pro cycling is likewise experiencing turbulence and how brands are getting around low visibility with other forms of marketing.