An anxious political situation and the migration crisis on the Lithuanian-Belarusian border will keep Belarusian cycling teams out of the Baltic Chain Tour in Estonia this weekend.
After reviving the tour event in 2011, Belarusian teams have often participated in the multi-day competition, even as a national team. But the political situation has never been more tense and domestic pressure caused the teams to drop the event.
"It is unfortunate that athletes have been swept up in the whirlwind of politics," said event organizer Allar Tõnissaar. "We are all up to date with the news and know what is happening on the Belarusian-Lithuanian and Belarusian-Latvian direction. We would like to save sports and athletes from the effects of political events, but it seems impossible. Seems like deja vu, just like last year. In a week, the number of teams dried from 29 to 19."
"In addition to the political problems, visa bureaucracy and strict coronavirus measurements that differ between countries cut into the number of teams. Nobody gave up lightly, but if there are athletes from different continents, overcoming the paperwork can prove too difficult a task," the organizer added.
The UCI 2.2 category three-day event starts on Friday, August 20, from Tallinn and will wrap up on Sunday, August 22, in Valga. The tour covers more than 500 km.
Last year, coronavirus safety and isolation requirements established in Estonia led half of the participating teams to drop out of the event, leaving only 11 teams of the initially registered 22. The Estonian national team nearly dropped out because three team members were imposed a two-week self-isolation requirement.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste