“I would much rather err on the side of safety. My priority is to keep folks and their families safe.”
— Clint Culpepper, Portland Trophy Cup
The posters are printed, the sponsors are lined up, the racers are ready and their race numbers are ready to be pinned on. But for the second year in a row, cross is not coming.
Clint Culpepper, the owner of the popular Portland Trophy Cup cyclocross race series, announced today that the 2021 season will not happen. It’s the second year in a row that Covid has denied Portlanders of some of their favorite ‘cross events.
The unfortunate decision was made, Culpepper said, due to raging Covid infections and the lack of ICU beds in Oregon hospitals. “I know this isn’t the news that you wanted to hear,” Culpepper wrote in an email, “but I don’t feel that it’s possible to hold the race in a safe manner and also make sure that participants feel safe.”
Culpepper said about 30 people had already pre-registered for the 2021 series. He’ll offer refunds but has made an urgent appeal for folks to opt instead for a 2022 series pass.
The decision impacts four Trophy Cup races and the Rose City Cup which was scheduled for September 25th. The Trophy Cup was slated to begin September 14th and run each Tuesday night through October 5th.
Culpepper’s decision comes less than a week after the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association announced they would not impose vaccine mandates at races. In an email on August 24th, OBRA Executive Director Chuck Kenlan wrote that the organization is “pro-vaccine” but that they would leave decisions about how address the Covid vaccine question up to each individual promoter.
Some Oregon race promoters have said they’ll require vaccines in order to participate. Culpepper hinted on Instagram last week that he might have a mandate in place. What some fans might not appreciate is that most bike race promoters operate on a shoestring budget and skeleton crew of staff and volunteers. While a vaccine mandate might seem like a no-brainer policy, it would come with considerable logistical overhead.
Mudslinger Events owner Mike Ripley, who hosted the OBRA Mountain Bike X-C Championships and the season’s first cyclocross race of the season over the weekend, said he didn’t have a vaccine requirement but that, “We are heading that direction.”
Cycle Oregon is still planning its big multi-day Tygh Valley Rally on two weekends starting on September 10th. Executive Director Steve Schulz said all registrants, staff and vendors at the ride were told earlier this month that they will be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test within 72 hours of arriving at the event.
Carol Cohen, an event coordinator for the City of Sandy and organizer of the Corn Cross cyclocross race scheduled for September 18th, told BikePortland Friday that, “We have not made a decision yet.”
The cancellation of the Trophy Cup is a major blow to the local racing scene. Another popular race series that also takes place at Portland International Raceway, the Short Track MTB series, was cancelled back in June.
So far, OBRA events have not resulted in a significant amount of Covid infections. All OBRA events must get through a rigorous health evaluation before being given a permit. In April we reported that there were zero Covid cases after the first four large events of the 2021 season.
But that was before the Delta variant took hold.
Last week Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced a new outdoor mask mandate and said, “The Delta variant is spreading fast and wide, throwing our state into a level of crisis we have not yet seen in the pandemic.”
For event promoters like Clint Culpepper, the numbers are simply pointing in the wrong direction. “I would much rather err on the side of safety,” he said. “As kids return to school this week, I believe that my priority is to keep folks and their families safe.”
Even with broad support for an OBRA-wide vaccine mandate, it’s unclear whether promoters will want to shoulder the burden of spreading the virus or whether they’ll try to hop over the barriers and keep their events rolling. This announcement from Trophy Cup could be just the first domino to fall and it remains to be seen whether other promoters will follow suit in the coming days and weeks.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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