A “road to success” for future British cycling stars risks being “wiped out” by Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, many elite names say.
A group of 12 riders, including Tour de France winners Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas, have written to the UK government to voice their concerns.
They believe post-Brexit rules limiting the time runners can spend in Europe will hamper development.
The group also believes that major UK racing meetings have been ‘lost’ to Covid-19.
“While each of us has had a different journey in our sport, what is clear to all of us is that we would not have come this far without the intensity of regular top-level races and the ability to test our limits in unfamiliar contexts, ”reads the letter from the runners.
“We are writing today because we fear that the same road to success for today’s young British riders is arguably more difficult than ever and in danger of being completely wiped out for most.”
Thomas and Froome have put their names to the letter with former world champion Lizzie Deignan, Anna Christian, Dani Christmas, Mark Donovan, Lizzie Holden, Joss Lowden, Dan McLay, Connor Swift, Alice Towers and Fred Wright.
The letter, addressed to Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden, was sent at the start of the weekend when the Tour de France and La Course begin.
Those backing it point out that UK residents can only visit EU countries for 90 days out of a 180-day period following Brexit and call on the government to establish a resolution for the start of the 2022 season.
The letter continues: “We are the luckiest, with professional contracts with top-level teams, but if we had known the current restrictions on visa-free residency early in our careers, we might not have achieved this privileged position.
“The impact of Covid-19 across Europe masked the problem in 2021, due to subsequent restrictions put in place on cross-border travel.
“We are concerned that the absence of a solid solution by 2022 – whether in the form of an amateur athlete visa or other agreement – will cause many riders to lose the opportunity to acquire such a critical experience.
“We know that sport is not the only industry affected and we don’t expect athletes to skip the line for government support, but we are asking for dialogue.”
British Cycling says the number of races in the UK fell 23% from 2016 to 2019 due to “difficulty in obtaining necessary permits” and that restrictions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic have added to the challenges.
The 12 riders added in their letter: “As British Cycling works hard to meet the challenges ahead, to make a real difference, we need your support to urgently review the Motorway Cycle Racing Regulations.
“This will allow us to empower more volunteer race marshals and review police burdens, in order to make UK racing safe and financially viable in the future.”