Cycling: NZ's Sam Bewley feeling mental toll of lack of competition

Kiwi cyclist Sam Bewley would now be in the thick of his preparations for the Giro d'Italia, if the COVID-19 pandemic hadn't brought the sporting planet to a standstill.

The Italian race was scheduled to start on May 9, but has since been postponed, as Europe continues its coronavirus lockdown.

"Right now, I'd normally be in an altitude camp somewhere in the south of Spain or up in Andorra, preparing really hard," Bewley told Newshub. "Instead, I'm on the bike for an hour a day inside."

Bewley is currently based in Spain, one of the worst-affected countries on the continent. He's been inside his one-man bubble for five weeks, with at least another three awaiting him.

"It's pretty nuts here. Obviously, Spain was pretty slow to react and implement their lockdown rules, probably a couple months too late, so it's been a bit out of control."

Citizens are only allowed to leave their house to go to the supermarket, for which they need a permission slip that allows them a 30-minute window.

So the Olympic bronze-medallist has been confined to his indoor bike, where he's kept somewhat busy competing in virtual races arranged by his Aussie-owned Mitchelton-Scott team.

While that allows for some semblance of physical training, Bewley admits the restrictions have been equally challenging mentally, specifically the lack of any clearcut competitive target.

"Yeah, it's hard," says Bewley. "The hardest thing is not really having a goal or anything to shoot for. 

"Normally, we'd be right in the thick of things, so mentally, it's not easy when you've spent the last 10-15 years as a professional athlete, always having targets and goals. 

"Obviously, all the racing in the foreseeable future has been cancelled or postponed. It's making it really difficult to plan."

Last week, the sport's showpiece event - the Tour de France - was delayed a month until August 29, but Bewley isn't holding his breath.

"There's talk of the season starting in August, so I guess that gives us some sort of route for planning, but I think we're still going to have to wait and see what happens over the next couple of months with this virus."

Despite the financial difficulties, Bewley - who has taken a pay cut - believes his sport will survive the turmoil and hopes the situation ultimately inspires some positive, wholesale change.

"I think it's a really good opportunity to make some changes, some real fundamental changes in the whole organisation of cycling and the way it's run," Bewley adds. "Whether or not that happens is a different discussion.

"Like everything, the new norm is going to be different. Salaries will probably be lower for the next few years, while companies recover economically.

"Race calendars might change.

"It's going to survive, but it's going to be a different sport for a few years, I reckon."

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