A “road to success” for future British cycling stars risks being “wiped out” because of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, claim a host of elite names.
A group of 12 riders, including Tour de France winners Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas, has written to the UK government to raise their concerns.
They believe post-Brexit rules limiting how much time riders can spend in Europe will hinder development.
The group also feel key UK race meetings have been “lost” to Covid-19.
“While each of us has taken a different journey through our sport, 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,” the riders’ letter reads.
“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.”
Thomas and Froome have put their names to the letter along 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, to secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport Oliver Dowden, has been sent at the start of the weekend on which the Tour de France and La Course begin.
Those behind it point to UK residents only being able to visit EU nations for 90 days in a 180-day period as a result of Brexit and call on the government to establish a resolution for the start of the 2022 season.
The letter continues: “We are the fortunate ones, with professional contracts with top tier teams, but if we had experienced the current restrictions on visa free residency early in our careers, we might not have achieved that privileged position.
“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.
“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.”
British Cycling claims the number of UK races fell by 23% from 2016 to 2019 due to the “difficulty in securing the necessary permissions” and that restrictions brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic have added to challenges.
The 12 riders added in their letter: “While British Cycling is working hard to address the challenges ahead, to make a real difference we need your support to urgently revisit the Cycle Racing on the Highway Regulations.
“This will enable us to empower more volunteer race marshals and review police charging, to make British races secure and financially viable in the future.”