Brazilian cycling federation divided over race going ahead despite absences of some top stars

When the IAM Cycling race began in Brazil, the teams were eager to showcase the country’s growing prowess on the global cycling scene. When the home team sent its cyclists to compete, however, it was with mixed feelings: with confidence but also feelings of what might have been. Even on a slow start, Brazil’s cyclists fielded the best team — just — of all the hosts in the event.

In stage 4 on September 7, Colombian rider Esteban Chaves enjoyed an impressive performance up the brutal Iguatemi circuit, which twists and turns through the hills of Iguatemi Shopping Center. But on the eve of the race, Chaves said the difficulty of the road forced him to abandon his bike before the final climb up to the crest of the Morro de San Vitorio.

In spite of his physical performance, Team Brazil faced lingering feelings of dissatisfaction. The team was quickly put together and then reorganized by the national federation, and struggled to find suitable riders: some needed sponsors, others dropped out because of their immediate plans.

Team Brazil also made news for little reasons: the team initially fielded defending time trial world champion Yuri Krasniqi, but he had competed in the team’s training camp earlier in the week and was not able to compete. Brazilian cycling federations declined to comment on the lack of communication.

On stage 5, Sep Marinho Jr., a veteran Brazilian rider, posted a stage-leading time ahead of a full host of racing green jerseys. He was followed by Chaves, Alberto Contador, and some Colombian riders who will face tough races at the event. It wasn’t until the end of the next stage — a crash-ridden, 2.5-mile lap — that Chaves finally came home.

On stage 9, though, things appeared to turn. The leaders came off the course during a rest period, and by the time Chaves and his team, along with the rest of the race, returned to Iguatemi, Chaves’ time was well back in the pack. By then the yellow jersey seemed out of reach.

The race will resume on stage 10, which starts in the city of Recife.

Even for Brazil, the race has been an experiment of sorts: for the first time, one of the six races in the IAM Cycling Tour held in developing countries is held at Iguatemi.

The IAM Cycling Tour has consistently provided a home for cycling success stories, such as Garuda Indonesia’s star cyclist Mariano Delgado. The local fans here in Brazil were eager to see what they could do for the growing national cycling scene.

Top Brazilian cyclists competed for the first time in the sixth IAM Cycling Tour, held in Brazil.

The entry of the IAM Cycling Tour here in Brazil has gone over well with locals. — IAM Cycling (@iamcycling) September 10, 2017

But now that the race is almost at the finish line, the country’s cycling federation seems torn over how to handle a race that has been hurt by the withdrawal of several of its top contenders.

Even as men’s champion Pablo Elias showed up at a press conference after his stage win, it was unclear whether or not he would be riding in the final stages. The federation seems divided on how to deal with a hot-button issue at the IAM Cycling Tour: whether cyclists should have sufficient rest days and on how to handle competitions in countries like Brazil that is never on a rest day.

If the federation is considering fielding a protest, they could try to make the case of staying home, but the day looks light on stars in the coming stages.

For the Brazilian cycling federation, this will be a long week in Brazil. It will take a lot more than a lot of good racing for the state of Brazilian cycling to regain the confidence of its own government.

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