Lucinda Brand: It's crazy and unreal that we are in the history books

Kirsten Frattini
Lucinda Brand (Trek-Segafredo)

Lucinda Brand doesn't expect to be racing anytime soon despite the on-going discussions about rescheduling events and salvaging the second half of the Women's WorldTour calendar. Instead, the Trek-Segafredo team leader is remaining focussed on doing her part to take the necessary health precautions amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"My coach said that we don't have races to focus on right now because there is no calendar now," Brand told Cyclingnews. "It's good that we aren't aiming for races because [the coronavirus] is something that first needs to be stabilised around the whole world before we can continue with what we as athletes are doing. Everything has to be under control first before we continue racing."

Brand joined Trek-Segafredo this year as the team's leader for one-day races and stage races but so far, like many of her colleagues in the sport, she has only had an opportunity to race in the two events on opening weekend; Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Omloop van het Hageland. 

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Due to public health concerns surrounding the fast-paced spreading of the novel coronavirus all of the top-level men's and women's races from March through June were either cancelled or postponed across China, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands.

For the Women's WorldTour that meant the Tour of Chongming Island, Strade Bianche, the Bevrijdingsronde van Drenthe, the Trofeo Alfredo Binda, the Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne, Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders, the Ardennes Classics and the Women's Tour.

The IOC then made the announcement to postpone the Olympic Games after weeks of doubt over whether the event could take place as scheduled from July 24-August 9.  Amid the health risk surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, the Games will instead be held in 2021.

"When it was just Strade Bianche that was cancelled, we were still kind of thinking ahead to the other races," Brand said. "It also felt like it wasn't too close [to home], and not that real, and that maybe it can't happen closer to us. I thought [at that time] maybe we could do some extra races in Belgium, but then the Belgium and Dutch races were cancelled, which I totally didn't expect.

"It was a really big shock when the Dutch government said everything in the public isn't allowed anymore because that's it, what now? Everything is so unsure. I was a little bit sad, did not know what to do. It felt strange but I was also quick to decide to keep my condition, ride [where possible], and stay healthy, which is the most important. 

"Everyone is in the same situation, and it helps to know that, everyone has to deal with the same problem at this point. I think that has also helped me. For sure, it is really hard." 

Many nations are in various forms of lockdown, and at the moment, the Netherlands are still allowing people to go outside for activities, while Belgium is discussing a potential riding limit of 50km on all cyclists. 

"In the Netherlands it is not as extreme and we are allowed to get outside," Brand said. "I can still train outside and then stay at home, only going out for grocery shopping. I'm really very lucky that I'm still able to get outside, and that is helpful."

The gyms are closed and Brand, like many professional athletes, is doing her own strength workouts at home. She recently posted a video on Twitter of a strength workout that included lifting an unopened bottle of Kwaremont, a trophy that she had won during her career.

"The gym was closed and I needed some weights, I was thinking about what I could use that was heavy enough and the Kwaremont bottle was full and heavy, so I started using it. I won it at a race but I can't remember at which point in my career I got it."

The UCI is providing on its website continuous updates of event cancellations and postponements due to the novel coronavirus. At the same time the sport governing body is working with race organisers to determine event date changes for those events that are postponed. 

"It is hard to say if everyone will be open to having a fall or winter program, or how far it can go," Brand said. "In 2021, we will also want to re-start as normal. Of course it is getting more and more tight with more races that want a new [later] date on the calendar. 

"For me, it's hard and I don't think it's possible to say that we are going to race this summer, at least not the beginning of this summer. We might end up with four months of racing which is not a lot. No one can give a real good answer but as soon as there is a possibility to race again, I believe that everybody has a part in it, and will try to get as many races back on the calendar. It will not be easy and for sure there are races that we will not do this year."

The fact is that the novel coronavirus has forced the biggest global sports shutdown since World War II. There is no telling when the pandemic will be under control or when racing might resume.

"It is crazy and unreal that we are in the history books. Of course we have all learned about the World War, and, in many years, the next generations will be learning about this coronavirus that has put the world down," Brand said.

"It is unreal and it's a terrible story with so many people sick and who have died, but the only thing we can wish for at this point is that there is a more hopeful outcome."