There was a glaring omission in the first week of the Tour de France.
For all the high-octane racing and freakishly large crowds, there was no mention of the fact that the deadliest war on European soil this century is still being fought just 1,700 direct kilometers from starting point of the race in Copenhagen.
Almost five months have passed since Russia unprovoked invaded Ukraine, and the horror and shock that was present at the start of the war has faded. Although tens of thousands of military and civilians have lost their lives, cycling has remained quiet since the initial escalation, doing nothing since it starved Russian and Belarusian teams, among other measures.
Now, as the world sits down to watch the greatest bike race of them all, silence. Cycling has relegated the war to the background of its collective spirit, even against the backdrop of the deaths of two Ukrainian cycling coaches, one at the start of the war and the other in May.
weekly cycling understands, meanwhile, that the heavily sanctioned Russian oligarch Igor Makarov remains on the UCI’s management committee, despite pressure to remove him. C.W. has repeatedly asked the governing body for clarification on why he is continuing in his role, but has yet to receive a response.
On stage four of the Tour, there was a minute’s applause for the victims of the Copenhagen mall bombing last Sunday, but should he, in front of a global audience, make a similar gesture against war?
“There’s no reason not to talk about it, especially while it’s still going on,” said Toms Skujins. weekly cycling, the Trek-Segafredo rider having talked about the war since its inception. “It doesn’t have to be every day, but we need to highlight it when we can.
“There are certainly things that we [as riders and a race] should do and it would be great if we could have some sort of [stance]. If the war had started now, for sure we would do something, but now it’s forgotten in people’s minds and it’s not as urgent for them, which is a shame”, says the biker Latvian, which shares a border with Russia.
“If we can remind politicians that we still care and think about it and care about it, that will inspire them to do something about it. If people stop talking about war, governments will think nobody cares anymore and they will focus on other things.
Racing under a neutral flag, Russian rider Aleksandr Vlasov leads Bora-Hansgrohe’s overall classification ambitions in the race, while Belarusian rider Aleksandr Riabushenko makes his Tour debut for Astana.
weekly cycling asked Vlasov if he would support the race by taking a stance showing his support against the war, to which the 26-year-old replied: “Yeah, if they organize something, why not?”
Riabushenko, meanwhile, was reluctant to discuss the war, but confirmed that his family could not come and watch him at the roadside due to visa restrictions imposed on his compatriots due to the sanctions.
When asked if he would approach Vlasov and Ryabushenko to participate in a message of support for Ukraine, Skujins replied: “Good question. I’m not very aggressive so it would be difficult for me, but maybe it’s something I should consider.
C.W. has spoken to several runners in recent months with ties to Russia and its allies, all of whom have expressed a desire to be kept out of the news for fear of consequences for themselves and even their families left behind in the country.
Is a potential position complicated by the presence of the duo in the race? “It probably is, yes,” added Skujins, who later said he would raise the matter with the CPA and Riders Union to try to provoke a movement. “It would be interesting to see if we took a position on what would happen. How would these two pilots react?
“It’s hard to tell how connected they are to their country, and they haven’t really spoken about the issues, so I guess they try to keep both doors open. express a bit. But, they could be forced in one direction or the other. It’s not easy for them either, especially if they are really against it.
“You have to remember that these people who ride in the peloton have families. We’ve seen what the Russian government can do to its own people with deportations and all that. It’s scary, and we don’t want to throw anyone under the bus, or say anything that might affect their family or friends who are there.
Skujins’ fellow Latvian, Israel-PremierTech’s Krists Neilands, also shared his despondency. “It’s hard to believe that in the 21st century this kind of thing is happening in Europe. We need to talk about it. It’s very close to my country, I see the news every day, and it’s so sad what’s happening.
weekly cycling tried to ask Tour race director Christian Prudhomme before stage five if he was planning to take a stand, but Prudhomme said that “as you know you are 2,000 journalists on the race and I cannot answer to all questions. You must speak with Fabrice [the race organiser’s press officer].”
Asking ASO, a spokesperson said, “Nobody else even asked that question.” At the time of publication, ASO had yet to provide any official statement.