“This won’t be an off-the-cuff approach. This is serious business and we’re taking it seriously.”
— Mike Ripley, Mudslinger Events
If there’s one word that defines what race promoters face right now it’s uncertainty. They don’t know when events will happen again, what they’ll look like when they do, whether people will sign-up for them, or what it will take to keep people safe from Covid-19.
“It’s up to individual race promoters to prove they are in compliance.”
— Chuck Kenlan, OBRA
After months of juggling dates and shoving events down the calendar, the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association announced yesterday their new plan is to defer all scheduling decisions to medical best practices and health guidelines. “OBRA will no longer be setting future dates for the suspension of racing,” Executive Director Chuck Kenlan shared yesterday. “Rather, we are relying on federal, state and local jurisdictions’ guidelines for outdoor gatherings and sporting events. It is up to individual race promoters to prove they are in compliance with the restrictions and guidelines of the jurisdictions where they are operating.”
Each race promoter will have to draft a plan that will then be evaluated by a new “medical advisory team” assembled by OBRA. This team is made up of bike racing veterans who are also medical professionals. The team includes longtime OBRA board member Mike Murray, physician and coach Anne Linton, and physician’s assistant and pro racer Beth Ann Orton. They’ll be charged with assessing race plans and adding additional guidelines if and when necessary.
There are many facets of a race that raise concerns in a crowd-resistant Covid-19 world: Registration tables, restrooms, awards ceremonies, mass starts, feed zones, and parking.
OBRA met with promoters from throughout Oregon last week to help them think through potential restrictions and health guidelines. OBRA also launched an online survey for members to help inform promoters. The survey aims to gauge would-be racers’ comfort levels around things like a potential mask requirement, higher registration fees, major changes to race formats, comfort with travel, and so on.
Kenlan says they haven’t received any plans yet.
Mudslinger Events owners Andi Ripley and her husband Mike Ripley put on races all over Oregon. Last year they organized and promoted 15 events and hosted 3,000 participants. Now unemployed and facing a gross sales loss of $90,000 (and counting), Mike said in an interview yesterday that Covid-19 just adds another layer to his work. “We have to be able to balance so many factors when we put on an event,” he said. “For my part, I’m not that stressed out other than having the family budget gutted.”
Mike added that his strong working relationships with land managers, staff, volunteers, and permitting authorities will help him through this difficult time.
As for his many popular events, Mike said he’s working on a “bottom-up mitigation plan” that could result in large no-contact events and put him at the forefront of Covid-19 safety for bike races. He’s thinking through every facet of race-day — from feed zones where snacks are in pre-packed bags for pick-up, to an individual time-trial format instead of group starts. Virtual events are also likely in Mudslinger’s future.
Kris Schamp is the owner of Portland Racing and puts on the popular Short Track MTB series at Portland International Raceway (among other events). “The big elephant in the room,” he shared via email this morning, “Is really whether it is at all feasible to have a bike race and abide to the six-foot social distancing rule.” “To be frank, I don’t see how that is possible without bending or breaking that rule, except when you would make masks mandatory or change the format of the race to a time trial.”
Whatever happens, Mudslinger’s Ripley isn’t slinking away from the challenge. Working closely with OBRA, he’s optimistic racing will return but realistic about the work it will take. “This won’t be an off-the-cuff approach. This is serious business and we’re taking it seriously.”
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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