The UCI has updated COVID-19 protocols ©Getty Images

International Cycling Union (UCI) has updated its COVID-19 health protocols for races on the men’s and women’s road calendar in 2021.

The governing body said the updated documents had been drafted by a steering group headed up by the UCI medical director Xavier Bigard.

The protocols are broadly similar to the measures in place in 2020, but feature changes made in response to developments in the international health situation.

Those developments include the creation of vaccines and new characteristics of the pandemic, such as mutations of the virus and rapid spread of variants.

"Progress has been made in the fight against coronavirus, especially with the arrival of vaccines, which have given us hope that we can soon make a gradual return to a more 'normal' life," said David Lappartient, UCI President.

"However, given that athletes and young adults are not among governments' priorities for vaccination, we have decided, in conjunction with the steering group - which includes representatives of the riders, teams, team doctors and organisers - to maintain similarly high standards as last year, in the best interests of all parties and in expectation of better days ahead.

"Cycling showed in 2020 that it knows how to organise major events in a pandemic, thanks in the main to an exemplary spirit of unity on the part of all stakeholders.

"In view of that spirit and the experience we have acquired, I am convinced that we have what it takes to continue to give our sport a platform, despite all the continuing uncertainty."

Riders will continue to require two negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests before each race for UCI WorldTour, UCI Women’s WorldTour and men’s and women’s UCI ProSeries race.

The UCI says tests that must currently be taken to gain entry to a country are valid as pre-race tests, while salivary tests will be permitted.

The UCI said antigen tests will not be permitted due to their lower reliability and lack of proof as to their efficacy on new variants.

PCR tests will be conducted on rest days during all Grand Tour races during the 2021 season.

Team UAE Emirates riders and staff received COVID-19 vaccines last month ©Getty Images
Team UAE Emirates riders and staff received COVID-19 vaccines last month ©Getty Images

Organisers will also be required to help teams conduct PCR tests on leaving the country in question by enabling them to contact local approved laboratories that are available to carry out these tests.

Protocols for races will be rapidly reviewed and adapted to new conditions of the pandemic and to the latest knowledge in the area of prevention.

The governing body has said due to numerous countries not placing high-level athletes among the priority groups and a lack of scientific data about the reduction in transmission of the virus by vaccinated people, the continuation of race bubbles and PCR testing will be required for all.

The UCI has asked teams and riders to ensure masks are worn correctly to help combat the potential spread of COVID-19. 

UAE Team Emirates, who race in the men’s UCI WorldTour, confirmed last month that riders and staff had received COVID-19 vaccinations.

Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar was among 27 riders to receive an inoculation, with 32 staff members also receiving doses at a training camp in the United Arab Emirates.

The UCI has stressed the updated protocols do not take precedence over local and national laws and measures.

The updated UCI guidelines can be found here.