By Jessica McWhirt
The Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado (BRAC) held a Zoom Town Hall Meeting last Tuesday night to review results from a member survey and provide those who tuned in an update on racing. The overall message is there is no clear path moving forward as to when we can race again. They collected 695 surveys asking members about desires to race, their concerns with safety, how their cycling behavior has changed in the last couple of months, and what types of events they were planning to ride—interesting that more than a third planned to do both a mountain or gravel events. To view the survey results go HERE
As to racing and when it might happen locally, a lot of it comes down to the county commissioners. If the counties don’t provide permits for racing then Race Directors can’t put on a race. Right now, they’re rejecting any applications or pulling permits for events with over 250 people.
Lance Panigutti said when the county commissioner pulled the permit for the Louisville Criterium, they looked at the total number of participants, not the number of those racing at any one time. In other words, even though only 50 people could be racing at one time, the Boulder County commissioner saw that more than 250 people were registered for the race and they couldn’t allow that.
During the Zoom Meeting, Lance also brought up ideas on how races could be restructured to decrease the total number of people on race day. He suggested having a morning race broken up by a long break and restarting in the afternoon.
More than half of the survey respondents wanted to race this year, by August at the latest. 12.8% of the respondents were ready to race today with more ready to race in June and so on and so forth. On the other spectrum, 30.5% of respondents said they weren’t racing until there was a specified decline in new COVID cases or there was a vaccine. Of course this raises the financial question of race sustainability with a decrease of 30% or possibly more.
Reading through the survey responses reveals confusion about the Coronavirus and how everyone thinks differently from each other. For example, when BRAC asked, “Is there anything an event can do to make you feel more comfortable with participating in a bike race?” someone said, “Hold the race, healthy bike racers under 70 are not at risk. Do not allow very old or sick people to attend.” According to the CDC, the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases are between the ages of 18-64.
A lot of people suggested time trials or decreasing race group sizes. Others suggested online registration only, no group gatherings before or after the race, taking temperatures before races, and of course, having mass amounts of hand sanitizer everywhere. And as many people who suggested one thing, someone else contradicted it with their response.
Even when Colorado Classic and Bicycle Colorado have strongly urged cyclists to ride solo or with their household, 14.5% of the BRAC survey respondents have been riding in groups. At least 85% of survey respondents have claimed not to have been doing group rides.
When it comes to what racers miss the most about racing, it’s competition at 43.5%. No brainer. Following that was the social aspect or camaraderie of racing at 32.8%.
USA Cycling addressed the desire to compete and started a Zwift Racing League on April 22nd. This series will run until June 24th. In order to compete, racers need a subscription to Zwift, a reliable heart rate monitor, power meter, and an account on Zwift Power. Zwift plays the midday race live with announcers, Nathan Guerra and Dave Towle which has brought the aspect of competition and camaraderie.
Toward the end of the survey, BRAC asked, “None of us has a long-range vision or accurate estimated time of being able to re-engage in organized cycling events and races. This will be an ongoing process involving many organizations. In the meantime, what Colorado cycling-related information are you wanting to hear about? What could BRAC or others in Colorado do to make your time riding and training more meaningful?”
There was a resounding ask of clear communication from BRAC. Everything from how racers should go about riding outdoors, when races are canceled, new routes or training advice, and any updates on COVID-19’s impact on the bike racing scene.
When visiting USA Cycling’s website for updates, the pop-up says,
With the continuing national emergency, USA Cycling will extend its suspension of all issued permits for sanctioned events – including USA Cycling races, rides, camps, and clinics – through May 31, 2020.
USA Cycling is currently working with our stakeholders, event organizers, and medical experts to develop guidelines and best practices to assist in keeping participants, event staff, volunteers, and the communities where we hold our events as safe as possible once riding and racing resumes.
We continue to call on all event directors, clubs, coaches, athletes, and members to follow the guidelines and regulations issued by national, state, and local authorities on social distancing and prohibited activities. This includes forgoing gatherings such as group rides and any other group or team activities where people assemble.
USA Cycling has held virtual meetings to discuss the current state of racing and what USAC members can do to keep themselves and their communities safe. They’re holding another one May 18th at 2:00 PM MDT that anyone can attend.
Currently, all races are suspended through May 31, 2020, and it looks like USAC will roll out a guideline for Race Directors to follow when holding a race. USAC further punts the allowance of races to local health authorities: “With cycling events now often subject to requirements for mass gatherings and social distancing as set by local health authorities, it is critical that event organizers consider how to make their events safe in the time of COVID-19.”
Then there’s the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) of which USAC is a national governing body under USOPC. In other words, USAC looks to USOPC for regulations and guidance.
The USOPC released a guide (and considerations) for the return of events. They have several questions an event director should consider:
- When is the rate of community COVID-19 transmission, and therefore the risk of infection, low enough to allow a sports event?
- If the event is restricted to only athletes and essential support staff, can adequate testing of this group be performed to limit their risk of contracting COVID-19 during the event?
- Is it appropriate for COVID-19 testing to be used for athletes and staff of a sports event when there are national and worldwide shortages of these tests?
- Can event management mandate testing of athletes and essential support staff in order to participate in the competition?
- Can event management exclude athletes from competing in the competition if they test positive for COVID-19 and/or present with signs and symptoms of COVID-19?
- Is it appropriate for athletes, event staff and spectators to be supplied with or use personal protective equipment (PPE) meant for medical personnel when there is a worldwide shortage of PPE?
- Should or can you restrict athletes from participating in an event if they travel from a location with active community transmission of COVID-19?
Like the rest of the previous organizations, the USOPC deferred to medical professionals and/or public health officials. As frustrating as it is, it makes sense to learn what to do from someone who actually understands the complexity of COVID-19. Within the USOPC’s document, they consider cycling to be a Level 2 risk (out of 3; 1 being highest risk and 3 being lowest risk) which is defined as:
“Sports that involve close, sustained contact, but with protective equipment in place that may reduce the likelihood of respiratory particle transmission between participants OR intermittent close contact OR group sports OR sports that use equipment that can’t be cleaned between participants.”
This 32-page document continues with recommendations and steps to put on a safe event. In the end, Race Directors will have more barriers to jump over than ever before. They will have to work closely with public health officials and medical professionals to ensure they abide by safety regulations.
What does this all mean for bike racers? We need to be patient and realize the answers won’t be clear for foreseeable future. BRAC is a local association that essentially organizes Colorado races. USAC is the national governing body that oversees all bike disciplines and local associations throughout the United States. They’re most known for talent ID to represent the USA on the international racing stage. USAC looks to The USOPC for regulations and guidance. The USOPC states within their guidebook to work with local medical professionals.
When accessing the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, they recommend following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s guidance. Currently, the CDC’s recommendation is to cancel or postpone in-person events of 50 people or more. So, if Race Directors can find a way to limit the number of people in the race and argue that there while the total registered number of racers is 250+, no more than 50 are congregating at a time, maybe we can race this year.
No one knows and no one will know until the CDC tells us so.