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Cycling in a locked down country: how Italian cyclists and bike brands are coping with coronavirus

Riders banned from training on the road, visitors banned from factories... is this a taste of things to come in the UK with the COVID-19 virus continuing to spread fast?

With no signs of the coronavirus outbreak slowing down and more than 800 deaths confirmed in Italy so far, all shops except food stores and pharmacies are now shut in the country – and the National Federation in Italy has issued specific guidelines to restrict cycling.

Coronavirus Watch: What's cancelled, what's postponed and what's still on?

Only riders who hold a professional licence are allowed to continue training on the road. Semi-pro Italian teams have voluntarily suspended all activities including training outdoors.

Diego Lombardi, owner of London-based bike brand Racer Rosa who have manufacturers and suppliers in Italy, explained: “The main reason is not the risk of contagion, you can still go for local walks after all, but the eventuality of accidents and being in need of care or hospitals when the resources should be used by the virus emergency.”

The Italian Continental road racing team Work Service Dynatek Vega issued a memo on 11th March that read: “We have decided to suspend - starting from today - any type of training, even individual.

“At this difficult time for our country, it does not make sense to think selfishly about our sporting needs, but we need to guarantee the greatest possible protection of public health. Our teams have about 40 athletes between 17 and 30 years old scattered throughout Italy; we are convinced that in addition to their protection, it is important to transmit a strong signal of attention and responsibility."

The team’s riders were asked to leave the house only in case of extreme urgency and necessity, and are ‘exempted’ from carrying out both bike and free body workouts in the open air.

However, Pisa-based brand Daccordi reported that the situation was quite confusing for their clients and cycling groups, with some riders taking the lockdown more seriously than others: “There has been a definite decrease in cyclists training on the roads. You can certainly still see some, not in big groups though.”

Logistically their work and shop carries on as normal, but Daccordi have confirmed a marked decrease of passing trade and enquiries.

Campagnolo factory - the outside

The biggest name in Italian cycling, Campagnolo, continues to run its Vicenza factory which employs 400 people. Press and PR manager Nicolo Ildos told us: “We are implementing smart working in all the departments that are able to work remotely. We are still running smoothly because we do everything in Italy and Europe (Campagnolo’s main production site is in Romania).  

“We have safety procedures, like reducing meetings to six people. We also have sanitiser for hand-washing, and we prevent visitors from entering the factory unless they are under contract and can testify that they are not arriving from dangerous areas.

“We have no limitation in receiving parts and no issue in shipping final products all around the world.”

Ildos did confirm that in the case of a positive test, the factory would have to close: “We sent a few people home who might have been in contact with someone from a dangerous area, but we’ve had no positive tests so far.

“We are really pleased by the support we are getting, even some of the media are guaranteeing us bigger visibility to help us sustain our business, which for now has not been affected.

“We see an opportunity as we’re the only ones manufacturing in Europe. It’s not something we want, but we could either have a nasty surprise if we shut down and the economy collapses, or a nice surprise being the only ones who can guarantee a supply chain with no delays – but it’s not a dream scenario.”

Basso - one of the few bike brands that are still producing frames 100% made in Italy - have found it similarly advantageous that everything is made in-house, with their PR manager Josh Riddle saying in a statement: "While the scenario in which we are living at the moment makes for a complicated and stressful atmosphere and simply getting to work is a challenge of sorts, we are quite lucky insofar as we produce our products in-house.

"This is an advantage that is proving to be quite beneficial at the moment as we are not experiencing shortages of product to fulfill existing orders nor do we have problems taking on new ones. Our factories remain fully staffed and our production, proudly based in Italy, has not suffered any setbacks. Logistical providers remain operative and as a result things are business as usual for Basso."

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