To outsiders, a bike race is just a competition where people go fast on two wheels. Beneath the surface however, they’re much more than that. For races that bring crowds from cities into small towns, these events come with a significant economic and social boost to local communities.
In Echo, Oregon (population 704), the annual Red 2 Red cross-country mountain bike race is about much more than dollars and sense. It’s an annual tradition that locals have looked forward to for the past 12 years.
The race was supposed to run this Saturday, March 21st. When it was cancelled due to virus infection concerns, instead of telling everyone they should stay home, organizers came up with a novel plan: They’d run the race virtually.
According to the race website, racers are invited to complete the course any time between March 21st and April 25th. The course will be fully marked and available via the TrailForks app. Once they’re done, racers can email files from Strava or other tracking apps to email@example.com. This virtual race does not have official sanction from the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association, but all standard categories will be honored. Medals and prizes for fastest times will be mailed to participants.
Echo Red to Red is run by Scotts Cycle and Sports. Employee Brian Cimmiyotti shared with me yesterday that they’re just trying to make lemonade out of lemons. “Echo Red to Red is very important to the City of Echo,” said. “It brings a lot excitement to the town and local community groups always are extra motivated to help make riders feel at home.”
The Echo race is known for its fun singletrack trails, most of which are on land own by Lloyd and Lois Piercy of Sno Road Winery. Grabbing a few bottles of their wine is a tradition for many racers, so the winery is making a special effort to keep that going. Just give them a call before you arrive at (541) 376-0421 and they’ll deliver to your car in town or leave it outside on their patio for you to pick up.
Virtual or not, Cimmiyotti wants to keep his friends in Echo safe. He wants to make sure everyone who comes out to race keeps a distance from others, washes hands, and follows safe coronavirus guidelines. Learn more about the race here.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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