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Life in lockdown for Italy's amateur cyclists: 'It is a big test of willpower not to jump on the bike'

Joe Robinson
16 Mar 2020

Italian government banned recreational cycling last Tuesday

News filtered through this weekend that due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, all recreational cycling in both Spain and Italy had been temporarily banned by authorities.

Conflicting reports from both countries made it unclear whether cycling was still permitted for transport purposes or whether recreational cycling could take place if social distancing remained adhered to.

In Spain, it was reported that anybody caught cycling for recreational purposes could face a fine of between €600 and €3,000.

While the situation becomes more severe in Spain, a state of national lockdown has been in place in Italy for almost a week, confining the whole country to a state of self-isolation in order to slow down the spread of the virus.

Alongside the shutting of restaurants, bars and cinemas, last week the Italian government placed a temporary ban on all recreational cycling, except for professional athletes, in a bid to stop the virus and to ensure medical services are not burdened with any non-necessary cases.

While these actions do not seem to be on the immediate horizon in the UK, government predictions suggest the peak of the virus could hit in some months' time, which means similar measures to those in Italy and Spain could be imposed here.

Under lockdown in Italy: No outdoor cycling

To get an idea of what these measures mean for amateur cyclists, we spoke to Davide Cerchio, a keen cyclist and cyclo-tourist guide for the Piedmont Bike Hotel.

Cerchio has been in self-isolation since last Tuesday in his Turin home, having not ridden his bike outside since then either. He explained to Cyclist how this was affecting the life of cyclists.

‘We're under strict administrative order to not ride recreationally since last Monday, to avoid the spread of the infection, but it is not totally clear,' Cerchio explained. 'Only primary-need activities are allowed as well as outdoor activities with no risk, so people can go out for a walk, respecting one-metre distance rule, or take their dog for a walk.

‘Cycling as we see it - in lycra, training or challenging the local Strava segment or hill - is not considered a primary need and is banned. Spin classes are also forbidden as all gyms are closed.

‘There is no ban on cycling for transportation yet, people are allowed to ride to reach their workplace or go to the market. Bike-sharing services are still working and food delivery guys are allowed to cycle, too,' he added.

These restrictions will be in place until 3rd April, at the very least, although will likely be extended unless a drastic fall in coronavirus cases is seen in Italy.

While most recreational cyclists are adhering to the national orders, Cerchio told Cyclist that some are still defying the orders of government to ride recreationally, a move that most are considering to be quite selfish.

‘The national decree officially allows the outdoor riding of professional cyclists only but, as mentioned before, the outdoor activities are not banned, so there is plenty of discussion between the amateurs,’ said Cerchio.

‘I rode for the last time on the roads last Tuesday, on the first day of strict restrictions, an easy ride, solo, I did not even stop for an espresso despite the cafes still being open but I felt stupid so I decided to take a break.

'Most of us are training at home on turbo trainers but some are defying rules and are still riding on the roads. All the arseholes still riding at the moment are training for Gran Fondos but all the events are postponed/cancelled!

‘For all of us, it is a big test of willpower not to jump on the bike and train as we have a lot of free time. It's also a matter of civic sense to reduce the virus quickly.’

Cerchio works for the Piedmont Bike Hotel in the region of Piedmont as a cyclo-tourist in the local Alpine mountains. While the hotel accepts normal guests, from April onwards, the business is predominantly propped up by riders from abroad attending on cycling holidays.

With the current lockdown and despite a relaxed approach to date rearrangements, Cerchio has said that the immediate effects are being felt on the small business both in terms of a lack of current guests but also long term effects through cancellations.

'Our hotel is not only for cyclists, we're open all year for travellers, business or ceremonies but we have not had any guests since last week,' explained Cerchio.

'The cycling season is compromised as we work 99% with cyclists from abroad, our best markets are Australia, USA, UK and Israel but flights are now cancelled. We will be in trouble soon as we're a family business and not a big chain, I'm afraid for me and for my cycling staff.'

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