Support BikePortland - Journalism that Matters

OBRA sees light at end of Covid-induced racing blackout

Posted by on March 2nd, 2021 at 11:32 am

Bridge City CX, which debuted in 2019 and was cancelled in 2020, hopes to make a triumphant return as a championship race this season.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

If all goes according to plan there will be robust cyclocross season this year.

That was just part of the good news shared by Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA) Executive Director Chuck Kenlan in a letter to members on Monday.

It has been a roller-coaster of a year for OBRA, Oregon’s sanctioning body for bike racing. When the reality of the pandemic hit last March the organization laid off staff and cancelled dozens of scheduled events (their main source of revenue outside of membership fees). Now as Covid-19 vaccinations work their way through the state, the hibernation of competitive cycling might come to an end before the end of this year.

OBRA is now on a solid financial footing because so many people stepped up to donate, renew memberships, and sign-up for new ones.

As for the 2021 racing season? “We are hopeful that we may see some more ‘normal’ racing opportunities later in the year,” Kenlan said.

Advertisement

Two races on the calendar this month — Echo Red to Red in eastern Oregon and the Shasta Gravel Hugger in northern California — are both off-road and in very low population areas where competitors will be very spread out. As we reported last year, promoters had to get health plans approved by OBRA before getting a green light.

It’s the cyclocross season that holds the most promise for OBRA this year. After a meeting with ‘cross promoters last week Kenlan said, “I think this could be one of OBRA’s most exciting CX calendars in a while.”

“I know many will miss that fantastic finish on the velodrome. But it is the community and the culture that makes these races special.”
— Chuck Kenlan, OBRA

In addition to traditional favorites like Corn Cross and the Cyclocross Crusade series, there will be a few new races this season. One of the new races, Can Chaser CX, has a course designed by infamous promoter Brad Ross and will take place on a rodeo arena and horse stables on the Deschutes County Fairgrounds in Redmond. Closer to home, the new Vanport CX from Trophy Cup promoter Clint Culpepper will be a nighttime affair. We’ll share more details about these events as they are released.

The other big cyclocross news is that the 2021 OBRA State Cyclocross Championships be the Bridge City CX held at Oaks Park on October 9-10th (yes, a two-day affair!). Bridge City CX became an instant classic at its 2019 debut behind the community-oriented promotion of Sellwood Cycle Repair owner and racing veteran Erik Tonkin.

This racing news will come as a salve for fresh wounds about the loss of the beloved velodrome and race venue at Alpenrose Dairy, which closed permanently late last month. “I know many will miss that fantastic finish on the velodrome,” Kenlan said in his letter yesterday. “But it is the community and the culture that makes these races special.”

Check out the OBRA calendar for all upcoming race details.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
— Get our headlines delivered to your inbox.
— Support this independent community media outlet with a one-time contribution or monthly subscription.

NOTE: Thanks for sharing and reading our comments. To ensure this is a welcoming and productive space, all comments are manually approved by staff. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for meanness, discrimination or harassment. Comments with expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia will be deleted and authors will be banned.

11
Leave a Reply

avatar
3 Comment threads
8 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
7 Comment authors
BradWagonSERiderSteve ScarichLazy SpinnerJon Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

I know in my own community there is a lot of pandemic fatigue, a strong desire to have large outdoor events and gatherings again. But we still don’t know with any certainty how the virus is spread – we have lots of anecdotal cases of sweaty individual events in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation, outdoor super-spreader political events, rock concerts, funerals, and group singing, but few scientific studies of such incidents. And of course there are vaccine-resistant mutations occurring constantly, including a pretty virulent version from L.A.

My state of NC still restricts outdoor gathering to a maximum of 50, both with and without social distancing and masks, including the organizers. What is the maximum number in Oregon?

Steve C
Guest
Steve C

“As for the 2021 racing season? “We are hopeful that we may see some more ‘normal’ racing opportunities later in the year,” Kenlan said.”

I don’t think they are talking about any large groups until a high percentage of Oregonians are vaccinated. And even then they are simply “hopeful”.

Jon
Guest
Jon

I don’t think there has been a single case traced back to an outdoor bicycle event. There were many professional bike races in Europe and a variety of gravel races in Utah late last year where there were no rider to rider transmissions traced back to the events. Take a look at the latest Velonews for details on the Utah gravel events. Both those regions had a much higher Covid-19 rate that what Oregon has now. Oregon has had and continues to have 2nd or 3rd lowest C-19 rate in the country. Basically dynamic outdoor activities like bike riding in small groups have so far proven to be very safe. There have been a few cases of suspected outdoor transmission when people have been sitting close and talking for extended periods but that static condition is much different than dynamic movement in air. Indoor transmission is the danger. Even the State of Washington is allowing high school cross country running without masks once the race has started with smaller group starts. OBRA is requiring masks before the event starts and not allowing any gathering after the event. It seems very safe to me. I have not allowed anyone outside my household in our house for almost a year and I won’t be going dining inside a bar or restaurant until I get vaccinated so I don’t think I’m reckless.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

We all are living with continuous doubt and fear. We are making far-reaching decisions based on words like “suspected”, “we think”, “reported”, “so far proven”, etc, without much science to back it up. The longer we hold our collective breaths, the more likely that governors like Abbott of Texas will simply give up and open everything.

Unfortunately we have virtually no scientific evidence that what you say is true. Or false for that matter. At various times just about every US state has had unusually high rates of transmission, at other times very low. It’s hard to pinpoint causes. I have trouble believing that any minor gravel race in Utah lead to thousands of deaths of elderly there, or anywhere else. Poorer Oregonians are notorious for wanting to preserve their personal liberties, so why would they report being sick? If your death rate is close to what it should be, then congratulations; but if it’s significantly higher, then you are living in a state that has been severely under-counting deaths and illnesses, as I have been in my state. When I see a high rate, I assume that local governments are being more transparent and not wanting to hide bad news.

Nearly no decisions by state governments have been based on “science” but rather on how various state officials have interpreted the lack of data and their gut reactions. I don’t think any state “got it right”, including the 9 that never closed down. We “know” now that children are very unlikely to die or even get sick from the disease, and several countries report that they aren’t spreading the disease either, but that hasn’t stopped most states from closing nearly all their public schools and giving disadvantaged youth additional reasons to be further disadvantaged. And of course poor people were never consulted in the decisions made for them, myself included.

I’m looking forward to being vaccinated, but that’s academic since I’m nearly last on the list to be done. I have yet to see any proof that being vaccinated will prevent me from still infecting others or from getting sick from further mutations, only that it will likely help me from dying of it should I get infected.

Take heed from the Spanish flu. There was never an effective vaccine; to be sure, the science for vaccines has come a long way since then. It took Americans 3 years before they stopped wearing face masks, and six years for the last case to be reported. After 20 million REPORTED deaths (and likely many that were never reported), the disease somehow just disappeared…

Jon
Guest
Jon

We will be dealing with this disease for as long as we live. We missed the chance to stamp it out a long time ago. We will be getting updated vaccines much like we get a new flu vaccination every year due to mutations. With any luck as people get exposed to the disease or vaccine our bodies will eventually respond to C-19 with death rates closer to seasonal flu. There will never be a zero risk of dying from this or another viral disease. We have enough experience at this point to say that outdoor activities are much safer (19X or more based on tracing data from Asian countries) than indoor. I for one am focused on reducing my exposure to the most common methods of transmission – indoors via aerosols. As a healthy person under the age of 65 that can primarily work from home I too am in the last group that will have access to the vaccine.
I’ll take it as soon as I can but that will be June at the best.
https://www.sciencemediacentre.org/expert-comments-about-outdoor-transmission-of-sars-cov-2-and-use-of-facemasks-outdoors/

Steve Scarich
Guest
Steve Scarich

This article focuses on cyclocross, but I am concerned about road racing. I promoted over 50 events in the 80s and 90s. It is a hard, frequently thankless job. It got tougher over the years with stricter, and more expensive, requirements from municipalities and road owners. I stopped doing it because of that. Road racing in Oregon was on a downtrend, I believe, before the pandemic. I wonder how many promoters are going to want to step up, essentially start from scratch, to make (or lose) a few bucks? and, how many racers have moved on either personally, or in their racing aspirations? How many will show up?

BradWagon
Subscriber

Traditional road racing through OBRA is basically passion projects for promotors anymore. Culture at large has been the cause of that for the reasons/expenses you mentioned. “Gravel” (aka non-circuit, scenic courses) is only getting more popular and from a pure race tactics perspective PIR can offer that in a nice way.

Regarding the pandemic effects: cyclocross is probably the most risky due to the nature of spectating and hanging out at the venue and constantly racing around others, the one good thing is you generally don’t race in a peloton type group. I imagine that the events this fall will be pretty strict about not having team tents, encouraging people to not be at the venue outside of their own race time, etc…

Lazy Spinner
Guest
Lazy Spinner

There was a COVID spread study done in Japan last year based on marathon participants. They tracked 70,000 runners that had participated in mass start marathon races from Fall 2019 to Spring 2020 when mass events were stopped. Out of 70K athletes, race officials, and volunteers, only a single COVID-19 infection was reported. It would seem that outdoor events are reasonably safe and, with high rates of vaccinations, may not pose a risk to the broader public.

SERider
Guest
SERider

Do you have a link to this study?

If it’s as you say it is, I’m not really sure how looking at COVID spread almost exclusively prior to the pandemic winding up (and in a country that didn’t get initially hit very hard by COVID) is very relevant to events held in US.

Steve Scarich
Guest
Steve Scarich

I was both a marathoner and then, later, a bike racer. In bike racing, you spend lots of time in a very tight pack breathing the exhalations and even spit of the riders in your group. In marathons, I was almost always many feet away from any other competitor, after the first mile or so.

SERider
Guest
SERider

I think a lot more of the risk is travel to/from event, eating in restaurants, waiting for event to start, etc. compared to the actual even itself. That should be main driver in continuing to postpone/cancel large events until we have a better grip on COVID.

Local races are obviously much better, with lower risk. But they still don’t seem worth it to me at this point.