When coronavirus became a threat to large gatherings and events in March, sporting events were some of the first be impacted. Many of them were postponed, with organizers rescheduling for spring or early summer into the fall, when it would seemingly be safe(r) to travel and gather.
The UCI World Cup and Enduro World Series have been adjusting their race schedules continuously, and both have a busy fall itinerary. Countless other races followed suit by moving into the fall, but that isn’t possible for every event.
This week, the Breck Epic, a six-day stage race at elevation in the Colorado Rockies made the decision to cancel their event for the year, setting their sights on a 2021 return. So did the long-time Leadville 100, and the newcomer SBT Gravel. While it seems like the Rockies would be the perfect place to escape from the threat of the virus, the hosting communities have greater concerns.
Lake and Leadville County officials held a virtual meeting on May 7 to evaluate their 2020 summer event schedule, and after considering impacts to local health and safety resources and the new limitations imposed by Colorado’s Safer-At-Home order, county officials voted unanimously to deny permits for events to make sure that their own residents’ needs were taken care of first.
The county actually held additional meetings with Leadville and Life Time officials to review their operations plans, but they still didn’t meet the criteria for a race during this time.
“Ultimately, it was determined the iconic Leadville Race Series would not be able to operate within the required parameters, based on the number of event participants, support crews, volunteers, and additional people these events draw into the community,” said Leadville and Lake County in a press release.
The counties are denying any special event permits through September of this year to events that are unable to successfully operate within a 250 person maximum.
“While it breaks our hearts, we fully agree with and support their decision,” said Leadville 100 organizers in a statement on Facebook. “We are nothing short of devastated for our participants as we know how hard you have trained and looked forward to this summer’s events, and for our Leadville community, whose unwavering support each year has allowed us to provide the experiences we’re so lucky to create.”
The counties say they are working with local businesses to mitigate the economic impact.
“Leadville and Lake County cherish the many special events and races we traditionally host here each summer, and appreciate the thousands of athletes and their families, tourists, and visitors who participate and support our community,” added Lake County Commissioner Kayla Marcella. “This was an incredibly difficult decision for all involved. We will miss the energy and support from our marquee events this year, and look forward to summer 2021 when we can safely welcome them back to our community.” Leadville 100 would have taken place August 15.
The Breck Epic also hit a wall trying to plan out the challenging stage race in the mountain and tourist town of Breckenridge. After evaluating several factors including where participants were traveling from, and Colorado’s timeline for safety measures, organizer decided it would be best to cancel the race for 2020.
International riders make up about a third of participants, and it would have been “simply impossible to get here,” says Breck Epic organizers. An athlete survey found that if the race was held, most people would have participated. If they had to wear masks, most people would have deferred.
Breck Epic also says that by race day on August 16, they would have been unlikely to exit Phase 3 of Summit County’s recovery guidelines, which have social distancing and mask requirements in place. With that, they officially postponed the event until August 15-20, 2021.
The second year for the new SBT GRVL gravel race has also been cancelled in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, after organizers looked at guidelines from the CDC, and federal, state, and local governments.
“The SBT GRVL experience remains rooted in our core values including safety, fun, and credibility,” says Mark Satkiewicz, co-founder and race director of SBT GRVL. “Taking these values into account, it became clear to us that the required changes needed to keep every rider, spectator, volunteer, sponsor, vendor, and members of our local community safe would result in a significantly compromised version of the SBT GRVL experience.”
Instead, SBT GRVL plans to have SBT VRTL, and make routes available to ride for free for those who are interested. With Ride With GPS, SBT VRTL will have four different distances and routes to choose from, “to connect people all over the world and ride one of the four distances of SBT GRVL together, while apart.” SBT GRVL is even giving sponsor prizes to participants.