Many Races, Little Time: Cycling Faces a Crowded Calendar

A few events were canceled outright, including the Tour of Switzerland. But most of the races originally planned for March through July have been crammed into the new schedule, somehow, someway.

Many multiday races overlap, most notably two of the Grand Tours, in Spain and Italy. The Giro d’Italia will start on Oct. 3 but not end until Oct. 25. The Vuelta d’Espana will start on Oct. 20, before the Giro ends. As recently as 2008, Alberto Contador won both races in the same year. That will be impossible in 2020.

The Tour de France, which is to be held in September instead of June and July, usually has little major competition for attention. But this year it will be held simultaneously with an important weeklong Italian race, the Tirreno-Adriatico, which has been won in recent years by Tour champions Contador, Vincenzo Nibali and Cadel Evans.

Even some lesser known events from the spring, like the Three Days of Bruges–De Panne, have been squeezed into the schedule in the fall.

The women’s tour, which has far fewer events, has also pushed them back to August through November. And it is even adding an event, a first-ever women’s edition of Paris-Roubaix, the prestigious race in France in April in which riders race over grueling cobblestones.

The crowded men’s lineup means that cyclists will have to pick and choose which events to ride in. As a result, the fields of many events will be weaker than usual. Paris-Roubaix, for example, has been moved to Oct. 25, and will lose any riders racing in either the Giro or Vuelta.

There’s a risk of fan fatigue, too, as cycling enthusiasts accustomed to a big race every week or two may feel overwhelmed by the deluge of events, some of them on the same day.

It’s an issue many individual sports may soon face when things resume — whether to get in as many events as possible, potentially diluting their quality and overwhelming fans, or be more selective and potentially lose revenue.

Heavyweight champ Anthony Joshua was supposed to defend his belt against Kubrat Pulev of Bulgaria in London on June 20. But the coronavirus caused the bout to be postponed. (The two men had also been supposed to meet in 2017, but the fight was called off because of an injury to Pulev.)

The fighters are now eager to finally square off in August or September, but social distancing regulations in Britain could make that difficult. So their managers are looking elsewhere, and thinking creatively.

One possibility for a solution to this most modern of problems is a return to the past. The year A.D. 96 to be precise.

The fight may be held in the Pula Arena, a Roman amphitheater in Croatia, said Pulev’s manager, Ivaylo Gotsev.

The arena has been the host of numerous big events over the last couple of millenniums, notably gladiator fights and wild animal combat. After restoration in the 1930s, it has been mostly used for concerts.

Joshua brings a record of 23-1 into the bout. (He is 0-0 in gladiatorial combat.)

Formiga, the venerable Brazilian midfielder, is 42, so you might expect her career to be winding down. But on Thursday, she signed a contract extension through 2021 with her club team, Paris-St. Germain. In a way, the virus is the reason.

Formiga had been holding off retirement in part because she wants to play in one more Olympics. She has played in every Games since women’s soccer was added to the menu in 1996, winning two silver medals, as well as in the last seven women’s World Cups, a record.

She has spoken of wanting to play in a seventh Olympics, and with the Games pushed to 2021, now her club career will extend another year as well.

“After a game, my recovery time is longer,” she said last year. “Before it was like this” — she snapped her fingers — “and now it can take 40 to 70 hours” to recover.

Formiga means “Ant,” a nickname bestowed on her for her busyness and hustle. She will now be hustling at age 43.

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