In Our Own Words

I urge all Americans to learn from us in Italy and Spain. Stay indoors. Train indoors.

By: Cheynna Treto  March 17, 2020

American-born rider Cheynna Sutherland, who currently resides in Girona Spain, shares what the past few days have been like amidst the spread of COVID-19.

Five days ago I was out in the Catalan sunshine, enjoying the local Thursday group ride before I had to pick my children up from school. When I left my house life was fairly normal. Sure, the government had advised us to practice social distancing and there was talk of school closures, but it seemed those things only happened in other places, not sunny and calm Spain. At that time there were roughly 580 cases in the entire country, but the numbers did not seem alarming and as long as we kept our groups small and washed our hands, everything would be fine.

A few hours later I returned from the group ride to find the entire country had been turned upside down. There were frantic emails from school telling us classes and activities were canceled until further notice. My phone was full of text alerts from promoters of upcoming local races telling me everything was postponed until October. I was a little concerned, so I decided to go to the grocery store on the way to school pick-up. The shelves were stocked full of food and hygiene products, so I did not feel a sense of urgency to purchase tons of supplies.

On Friday morning we awoke to a completely changed world. The number of infected citizens had tripled in just 24 hours. That is how quickly this virus can spread. It was hard to believe things had seemed so calm the day before and one could now feel the panic in the air. Government officials were constantly updating the public with information and it finally came down to one important action—complete and total lockdown of Catalunya. The tiny group of infected citizens had become a very large group and the numbers were now alarming for our small town.  All businesses with the exception of grocery stores and pharmacies were forced to close their doors. In a few short hours the shelves of grocery stores were completely empty of all products. People were told to stay indoors unless going out for basic and essential supplies and police roamed the cobbled streets making sure people were getting their supplies and going directly home. We were in complete shock as to how quickly the situation had escalated.

As members of the Catalan Cycling Federation, we were immediately inundated with information about racing and training. Racing was off the table to avoid any sort of large group gathering and that made sense to everyone. Racing is highly unimportant when the public health situation is at risk and everyone was also in agreement that there should not be any large or small group rides until the virus was contained. Then came the directive from the Spanish government—no outdoor sport activity. None. No solo bike rides. No riding with your best friend who claims to be virus free. NO RIDING OUTSIDE AT ALL.

As an American I was sure the local cycling community would be up in arms about having to remain indoors, but I still have a lot to learn about the culture here. Community always comes above the individual and local cyclists were not about to put their neighbors in harms way. Cyclists agreed we should all stay off the roads and trails and remain indoors. Local bike shops have organized Zwift sessions. People are sharing their interval and core workouts via social media. Everyone has come together to remain indoors to ensure the health and safety of the community.

A few cyclists (not local citizens) were unconcerned and decided to test the new rule and were immediately stopped and fined by local police. Insurance companies in Spain have stated they will not cover any medical expenses from outdoor training accidents. Most of us realize the chance of having an accident while riding solo or with a friend is fairly low, but after 30 years of cycling, I have seen my fair share of random accidents—a tiny patch of gravel sends someone flying into a ravine, a bee sting for the friend that is highly allergic, a puncture in a tight corner wreaks havoc. These seemingly random accidents can send you to the hospital and right now in Spain the medical professionals do not have the time and the hospitals do not have the space. Going for a bike ride seems rather frivolous these days and at a time like this it has been inspiring to watch the Catalan cycling community put training and racing aside to come together for the greater good 

I urge all Americans to learn from us in Italy and Spain. Stay indoors. Train indoors. Please do not wait until reality sets in and it is too late.

About the Contributor

Cheynna Treto Sutherland is a native Californian who has been living abroad in Girona, Spain since 2011. She has been an avid cyclist for decades and now enjoys sharing the sport with her two children and husband

Resources:

Expert Advice on COVID-19 for the Cycling Community from Expert Dr. Roshon: https://www.usacycling.org/article/expert-advice-on-covid-19-cycling

CDC Advice: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

The USOPC's recommendations for coping with the impact of the coronavirus: