Joe Bike

Bike event promoters hit by cancellations, try to stay optimistic

Posted by on March 13th, 2020 at 11:08 am

Riders blast off the starting line of 2018 Oregon Coast Gravel Epic.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

“I’m postponing three events with 900 participants in the next 4 weeks. That’s $25,000 in entries.”
— Mike Ripley, Mudslinger Events

Most people who organize and promote bicycle rides and races don’t do it for the money. They do it because — like many of us — they love being a part of that magical thing that happens when people get together and ride bikes.

So yesterday’s announcement that all sanctioned bicycle races in Oregon will be canceled for the next four weeks struck them not just in the heart, but in the pocketbook. Event promoters work in the future. Long before you get to the start line, they’ve already paid for permits, venue fees, medals, t-shirts, and those free socks you get in your registration packet. And then there’s the cold, hard fact that putting on bike races isn’t what anyone would consider a lucrative business.

Mike Ripley, owner of Mudslinger Events, is an Oregon cycling legend. He’s got over three decades of experience putting on cycling and running races, including the oldest annual mountain bike race in the state: the Mudslinger XC race now in its 33rd year. In the course of one year, Mike and his wife Andi Ripley and their crew put on 15 events, manage 750 volunteers, and host 3,000 participants.

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Mike Ripley of Mudslinger Events.

When I caught up with him on the phone this morning, this typically perma-grinning bundle of positivity was clearly concerned about what our uncertain future holds.

“I’m postponing three events with 900 participants in the next 4 weeks,” he said, “That’s $25,000 in entries.” But Mike was quick to add that he’s much more worried about friends and family than himself. He wishes more would have been sooner to contain the virus (he’s all about social distancing), but he’s resolved to soldier on.

Mike doesn’t offer refunds, because he’s already spent those registration fees. “I’ve got 2,000 pairs of socks coming. I’l never have cold feet again! I have all my medals, my shirts, boxes of energy bars and gels, all the stuff I need. I’m ready to rock!” he said.

Jokes aside, Mike acknowledged he’ll “lose some ground,” but hopes things get back to normal by this summer. For now he plans to simply push all his dates back to April 17th and restart his schedule from there. Everyone who’s already registered can apply their fees to a future event date whether it’s rescheduled this year or next.

And if push comes to shove, Mike has a Plan B. “I’ll put together a resume for the first time. I’ll get my truck and trailer and start doing deliveries of food and basics for the elderly. Why not? I got the means. And I’ll go crazy with nothing to do.”

Portland-based Good Sport Promotion might be able to dodge the worst impacts of the coronavirus outbreak. They’ve had to postpone two half-marathons, but their marquee winter season event — the Worst Day of the Year ride — already happened (and attracted a healthy 1,200 people). Their other big events like the Portland Century and Petal Pedal don’t start until June 7th.

Even so, company owner Porter Childs wants to put minds at ease and has changed their refund policy in light of the virus. They now offer 100%, “no questions asked” refunds. “We are looking past the virus to a fun summer and great events, and we encourage our community to share in our positivity,” Childs shared in an email this morning. “So, while it may be prudent to stay alone now,” he wrote in an email to GSP fans yesterday, “We can still plan our summer fun without any (financial) worry.”

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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2 Comments
  • Becky Jo (Columnist)
    Becky Jo (Columnist) March 13, 2020 at 12:53 pm

    ugh. I feel this 100%. We have to cancel these events. No one wants to be the jerk still doing it, 250 attendees or not, and be the vector point of mass contamination, possibly causing serious harm or death. I put on a large sewing event and I do it for the same reasons: the love of the sewing community. I don’t do it as a promotional, commercial, or revenue making event – it’s purely social. My “sponsors” are tiny, local businesses that give small amounts to offset ticket prices. That means, financially, it’s my ass on the line. My personal credit cards putting down payments on catering & spaces. I take the hit of cancellation fees. Yeah. It sucks. It seems most cancellations of events are able to fall under Force Majeure language at this time, but that does not save us from, like stated, boxes of socks or “administration fees” for moving calendar dates. Mike, I feel ya, and other small event planners, you’ve got all my admiration & support.

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    Kate March 13, 2020 at 6:04 pm

    I hadn’t gotten around to signing up for the gorge gravel grinder yet, though I had fully intended to. I will be watching for the reschedule and plan to support the promoters as much as I can. Mike puts on fantastic races.

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