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Brexit Leaves UK Riders in Cycling Limbo

By Siegfried Mortkowitz

Brexit has made life more difficult for a lot of people on both sides of the new divide – and that includes UK professional cyclists. The post-Brexit end to free movement between the UK and Europe has put many UK cyclists based in Europe or with long European racing schedules in a kind of limbo, especially with countries like Belgium requiring riders to earn at least €80,000 a year to be classed as a professional sportsperson and be granted a special athlete visa.

According to The Cyclists’ Alliance (TCA), a support group for female cyclists, many riders are now worried about how to meet their contractual commitments in Europe. Specifically, “[UK] riders may need a visa, work permit or other documentation if they are planning to stay for longer than 90 days in a 180-day period” on the continent, depending on the country or countries where they will be training or racing, and depending on their individual circumstances.

Mark Cavendish cycling
“The impact and solutions [of Brexit] depend on a rider’s personal situation.” © Profimedia
The gov.uk website provides all the necessary information regarding the documentation required for lengthy stays in every country. And TCA provides online information for how an individual’s nationality, employment and residence affects how the rider should proceed; for example, it could make a difference if the rider is self-employed or an employee.

It sounds complicated, and it is. A non-EU national who stays in the Schengen area for more than 90 days without a residence permit or long-stay visa is in an illegal situation and could be hit with a re-entry ban to the Schengen area, which will have serious implications for the rider’s career. Riders staying less than 90 days must ascertain whether they need a visa and/or a work permit. It will depend on the country they are travelling to, the purpose of their visit and whether they are receiving payment or not, as many riders are still not financially reimbursed by their teams.

Anna Henderson
Brexit has complicated Anna’s life. © Profimedia

To address the situation for long-term stays in Europe, British professional riders have urged the UK government to negotiate a visa-free permit with the EU to enable them to train and race in Europe for the entire season. To that end, a number of riders have initiated a petition addressing the UK government and parliament.

The petition takes into consideration all UK athletes who travel year-round to Europe to train and compete. It states that “with many athletes self-funded and potentially each country asking for its own visa per trip, this will become impossible due to cost if there is this [a] limit of 90 [days] in 180 days of travel.”

The petition has gathered more than 6,000 signatures so far. It needs 10,000 signatures before the government will respond to the petition. At 100,000, Parliament will vote on it. Olly Moors of the Ribble-Weldtite team is one example of a cyclist placed in a difficult situation by Brexit. He has lived and raced in Belgium for the past five years and is presently stuck in the UK, Cycling Weekly reports.

His girlfriend Anna Henderson of Jumbo-Visma travelled to Belgium for the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and will be obligated to return to the UK after 90 days. Travelling back and forth is not only costly but it has been made unsafe by the Covid-19 pandemic. “So we’re basically both on the 90 days and this would have been my fifth year living in Belgium and obviously now that there’s Brexit I can’t do that,” Moors told the publication. “Because of the 90-day rule, it’s kind of screwed all of that up really.”