• Mitchelton-Scott riders during the 72nd Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne 2020 (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Australian travel restrictions currently in place severely restrict international travel at present, with a number of professional cyclists looking to navigate the travel exemptions to return to Europe for racing.
Jamie Finch-Penninger

6 Jul 2020 - 12:18 PM  UPDATED 6 Jul 2020 - 12:20 PM

It's an involved process for Australian cyclists looking to return to Europe for WorldTour racing, with still plenty of uncertainty once they reach the continent.

Permission for travel outside of Australia by Australian citizens is currently regulated on a per-request basis, with applicants advised to apply at least four weeks before the proposed departure date.

With the WorldTour racing calendar restarting on August 1 with Strade Bianche, riders will have to have already applied or will be hoping for an expedited process if they want to participate in the earliest races.

The default position of the Australian government is that travel is not allowed, but there are exceptions that do allow travel. 

The relevant provision for Australian cyclists (as found on the Department of Home Affairs website) is that "your travel is essential for the conduct of critical industries and business (including export and import industries)".

There is also a requirement for documentation to be provided to support the request for an exemption, including "a letter from an employer showing why the travel is necessary or that the work undertaken by you is critical" and a "statement or evidence to show when you wish to return to Australia". 

On the other end, Europe is ready to welcome travelers from Australia, with the European Union placing Australia on the list for admittance, though member states can choose to implement their own restrictions.

However, in some instances, it could be problematic to return and then move around within Europe. A lot of EU countries are maintaining bans on travelers from Spain and France, the two most popular European bases for Australian professionals. 

Spain and France do not impose mandatory quarantine periods for travelers arriving in the country, though several countries within the EU still do impose mandatory quarantines, and all countries have medical screenings.

In general terms, many of the more established professionals have opted to remain in their European bases, particularly in the men's peloton, with a larger proportion of female riders returning to Australian shores.

The shutdown of the racing season has seen competition migrate to online platforms like Zwift, but everyone is keen for the return of 'real' racing.

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The coronavirus situation has not only impacted professional riders, but also the lower levels, with normal travel for Australia's continental teams to overseas racing in Europe, Asia and the US expected to be almost non-existent.

Roxsolt-Attaquer is Australia's second-best team after Mitchelton-Scott and are currently ranked 6th in the world per the UCI standings. That current ranking is unlikely to last for long however as racing restarts without the Australian team's participation.

"We have discussed this and we are not returning to overseas racing until the travel advice changes and the Australian border re-opens," said team founder and part-owner Kelvin Rundle. "We have already declined all International racing for the remainder of 2020.

"There is no medical insurance available for the team if they contract COVID-19, and it would place an unfair burden on Australian resources to quarantine for 14 days on return. We are going to pivot the team to more cross discipline racing in Australia when it is safe to do so."

Health concerns have been raised by a number of professionals already, with riders concerned about riding in the close proximity of a peloton, with Jasper de Buyst saying that "it's impossible not to ride in each other's snot". 

Roxsolt-Attaquer is owned by riders Peta Mullens and Justine Barrow in collaboration with Rundle, with the whole squad voting to decide which races they will attend. 

"Overall we grateful for the understanding of each race organiser around our non-participation but increasingly disappointed with the UCI's support and lack of understanding," said Rundle. "Our riders' position is health should take priority over everything else but we are fortunate to be in the position of being able to make these decisions."

Australia's most prominent jet-setting men's Continental-level teams, Team Bridgelane and St George Continental, have confirmed to SBS Cycling Central that they won't be pursuing an extensive overseas schedule at this stage, if at all. 

St George Continental manager, Brett Dutton, said Tour of Southland in New Zealand exists as a possibility if a trans-Tasman bubble of travel opens up between Australia and New Zealand, with similar prospects existing for New Zealand riders participating in National Road Series events.   

The National Road Series has two alternative road calendars set for either a September or October return, depending upon the restrictions in place in Australia. 

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