By Martyn Herman and Kathryn Lurie
LONDON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Cyclists deprived of their weekend ride out with friends and fitness fanatics who can't get to the gym are turning to online cycling workouts to help them stay in shape during the coronavirus shutdown.
With professional racing closed down in Europe and club cyclists being advised against riding in large groups, the Zwift indoor training platform has seen a manic few weeks, according to spokesman Chris Snook.
Some of the best-known riders in professional road cycling have been making the most of the their unexpected spare time to lead out 'virtual' rides on Zwift's fictionalised Watopia course as amateurs join in from their home-based exercise bikes.
"It's providing a unique opportunity for cycling fans to not only ride alongside their heroes, but to ask questions," Snook told Reuters.
"Guests have included (2018 Tour de France champion) Geraint Thomas, (German rider) Andre Greipel, (world champion) Annemiek van Vleuten and many more."
Others who might normally prefer to head to the gym have decided it's time to buy a Peloton exercise bike rather than risk going to group classes.
"It seemed like a good opportunity for me to make an investment so I could exercise inside of my house, enjoy that exercise, and save money in the long term," said Amanda Clare from San Francisco.
Clare, 41, normally works out at Barry's Bootcamp but decided to drop that as the spread of the coronavirus forced people to retreat to home.
"I spend about $500 a month on Barry's, so while the Peloton was an investment – it was $2,450 – that will be made up if I just move to working out on my Peloton," she added.
Clare is crossing her fingers that the bike will be delivered as planned next week despite the disruption.
Jenn McCarron, 40, from Los Angeles has also decided to trade up by getting a Peloton bike after subscribing to its online classes for eight months.
"What made me pull the trigger was quarantine and loss of control over my fitness routine, which 100% takes place outside of my apartment," said McCarron.
"When the quarantine started happening last Friday, I started getting this low-level burn of urgency, like ‘wow, if we go in for two months I need that level of cardio,’ and not just that - the community and the connectivity around it," she added.
Criminal defence lawyer Liza Rosado, 35, in San Juan, Puerto Rico is waiting for a Peloton bike that she ordered in the middle of last month.
"Now that I'm gonna be stuck at home, I really wish I had it here," she told Reuters.
Still, Rosado is keeping things in perspective in light of the pandemic, which has led to a curfew across Puerto Rico and shuttered all nonessential businesses.
"I'm not going to be angry or mad about it – people are losing their jobs," she says, adding, "my clients are in jail. We don't know what's going to happen. We know they are one of the populations that's most at risk (from Covid-19)."
Back in Britain, the British Cycling Race Series, starting this week, features eight 30-minute races in which amateurs and elite riders, often those self-isolating, can compete against each other from the safety of their own living room.
"We're in an entirely unique situation that means there'll be no racing for a while, but it's important that we try to find some sense of normality in all this," said British Cycling's women's endurance coach Emma Trott.
(Additional reporting by Benjamin Kellerman in New York; Writing by Keith Weir; Editing by Christian Radnedge)