Jeremy Whittle in Brest
Fri 25 Jun 2021 17.14 BST
“Courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd”
The 2018 Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas
The 2018 Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas, the former world road race champion Lizzie Deignan and the seven-time Grand Tour winner Chris Froome are among leading names in British cycling to have signed an open letter calling on the government to assist young British riders whose racing careers have been stalled by post-Brexit travel arrangements.
The letter, sent to sport minister Oliver Dowden, argues that rules limiting British citizens, including athletes, to spending 90 days in the European Union in any 180-day period are huge obstacles to career development for young British talent.
“While each of us has taken a different journey through our sport,” the letter reads, “what is clear to all of us is that we would not have made it this far without the intensity of regular top-level racing and the ability to test our limits in unfamiliar settings.
“We write today because we fear that same road to success for today’s young British riders is arguably more challenging than ever, and risks being wiped out altogether for most.”
Anna Christian, Dani Christmas, Mark Donovan, Lizzie Holden, Joss Lowden, Dan McLay, Connor Swift, Alice Towers and Fred Wright have also signed the letter. All of those that have signed the letter are racing this weekend in either La Course or the Tour de France.
“The vast majority of British professionals have followed a well-worn path of moving to the continent as amateurs,” the letter continues, “often receiving financial support from organisations such as the Dave Rayner Fund, in order to pursue their dreams. “The impact of Covid-19 across Europe has masked the problem in 2021, due to the subsequent restrictions in place on travel across borders. We fear that the absence of a robust solution by 2022 - whether in the form of an amateur sportspersons visa or other agreement – will see many riders lose the opportunity to gain such critical experience.”
While there are some high-level racing opportunities to develop careers on the British scene there are few races that compare with the numerous race-hardening opportunities on the European racing calendar.
“We know that sport is not the only industry affected and we don’t expect sportspeople to jump the queue for Government support, but we do ask for dialogue,” the letter added.