Thursday, March 19, 2020

Why Putting Off Gravel Events Now Is A Good Idea

The Gent's Race has been postponed to an as yet undetermined date
Lately I have seen a little push-back in regard to the postponing/cancellation of most of the Spring gravel events. The main reasoning being used, that I have observed anyway, is that gravel riders are pretty much "practicing social distancing", so what's the big deal?

Well, that's totally wrong thinking, and it smacks of selfishness and denial. Sorry.....not sorry. Here's why......

First off, the authorities in matters regarding this pandemic all say that we must maintain a distance of six feet or more from each other. Thinking that any gravel event start, just as one example, is going to be maintained in that sort of fashion- distancing each other at a start line- is unrealistic thinking. Not to mention packet pick-up, or registration practices, which could be side-stepped, but at great effort and expense. Probably not practical at any rate. And remember, this virus lives on surfaces for long periods of time. What event can guarantee all surfaces will be sanitized with up to hundreds of participants showing up? An event like my beloved Gent's Race, with well over 150 riders, just couldn't happen under such circumstances. So that event has been postponed.

Then you have food and drink. Let's say that you have a self-supported ethos for your event. Well, how about all those chances to pick up a virus at the local convenience store? Or share what you unwittingly have with a local Grandma or Grandpa? Okay- let's say you have fully stocked aid stations. How do you insure a safe food and drink supply? That's an extra wrinkle. Could be done, but again- not every event can do this.

How would you enforce a six foot separation rule? Image by Jon Duke.
 Then there is the unreality of trying to maintain social distancing during an event. Not gonna happen folks. Simple as that. I mean, it's a race, and you aren't going to see riders maintain distances. Plus, as we are learning, wind and the fact the the virus can live in an aerosol state for several hours means that even if you might be 20 feet from a competitor, if they sneeze or cough, you still could come in contact with the virus if the wind is "just right". Not safe - so not advisable. At least not with this particular virus.

These issues get bigger and exponentially harder to control as field sizes get bigger. Is your event 20-50 people? Well, maybe you could pull it off. Try doing this with 250 people. Much, much more difficult. Now try it with 1000 people. Yeah......impossible. This alone is reason number one why events have to reschedule or cancel due to this virus. We just cannot take chances like that.

This leads me to what the events in the near future should be considering, and what the difficulties in postponing or cancelling are for the big events. In my opinion, no one knows when we will get an "all clear" on the COVID-19 virus restrictions. I've been trying to read any expert opinions that I can find, and most say that we are in for a long haul in regard to this pandemic. Estimates now are in the six month area. SIX MONTHS! You know that is now pushing on toward October? In my opinion, it doesn't make any sense to hold any gravel event if this is the case until October at the earliest. Why? Why take the risk and maybe make it so this pandemic has to last longer? That's why.

We also do not know what medical science may do to mitigate any long term concerns. If we get some sort of vaccine, and it can be administered to all the population (unlikely in a very short period of time, but still...), then maybe we "get out of jail" before October, but you have to figure, "what are the chances of that?" 

Again- no one knows. 

And what if you are a bigger event with registration already sewn up and you have $$$$'s invested which cannot be liquidated? What if your host city has a big stake in benefits from your potential event? Well, then you have a very difficult decision to make. I do not envy you, if you are event directors of such events. But.....please do the right thing sooner than later. In my view, it would be better to not have the events, lose money, and be wrong about the danger than to forge ahead and expose folks to this virus. And by the way, this goes for group rides as well.  But yeah, I get it. Guitar Ted can say whatever the hell he wants and he doesn't have any skin in the game.

Right. But you'll have to make up your own mind and remember- It won't only be you that will have to live with your consequences. It will be your community, and the communities of the participants in your event. The bigger that event is, the more influence you have. That's a BIG responsibility. Wouldn't it make more sense to make a decision based on an overabundance of caution?

Tell me I'm wrong.......


graveldoc said...

An old saying from the past rings true..."Better safe than sorry"!

Tyler Loewens said...

Don't forget about the potential for wrecks during these mass-start events. Now you end up with cyclists needing medical attention from an already bombarded medical community.

Look, this sucks for sure but it could be way worse folks. Now is the time to think selflessly. Instead of being bummed, be hopeful that most of the globe are coming together to do the right thing and help give everyone a fighting chance!

fasteddy said...

Well reasoned and well said. Always good to know we can rely on you for a principled point of view, Mark.

Guitar Ted said...

@graveldoc - Old wisdom strikes again!

@Tyler Loewens - Good point! You are correct to bring up unnecessary loads on our already over-taxed medical system right now.

@fasteddy - Thank you!

Anon said...

From the information I have read, we will be very lucky if we are done with COVID-19 in six months. It seems more likely that we won't be done until there is a vaccine, or until it has ravaged everyone and we develop immunity. Unfortunately, we are going to have to accept that life will be very restricted for a long while.

One thought that has been running through my mind recently is that if we don't act responsibly now and practice proper social distancing, we might end up with a situation in which the authorities enforce the mandates to socially distance ourselves. This is already happening in Europe. If that happens here, it might ruin even solitary rides. I think it is much better to follow the guidelines before state enforcement becomes a reality.

Guitar Ted said...

@Anon - Well said.

Ben said...

I'm a bit perplexed by DK's announcement of being more towards "yes" we are having the event then "no" we are not. I understand and respect waiting (although May 1st is too late IMO) to make a decision. So just say that. They have no idea what next week let alone 2 months will bring. Stop speculating.

W said...

Nope, you're right. And perhaps you should write to the Dirty Kanza organizers - there was an article in Velonews yesterday, and they basically said they're leaning towards a go. There is no way that 3,000 participants coming in from all over the US can be a good idea. I get it, it's a monument of gravel, and if I had registered I would really, really want to do this. I'm in that situation with the Heywood Ride - it was an A event for me, I really wanted to ride it, and I'm bummed that they canceled, but it's the only plausible thing to do.

nellborg said...

While I'm totally on board with the "better safe than sorry" idea regarding illness and injury, you folks are putting the cart before the horse here since no one has any idea how many people are infected and therefore how virulent this COVID virus is - it's the denominator that's completely unknown, right? The published ratio of deaths and "confirmed cases" is meaningless.

Until more is known, I agree that it's best to be well on the conservative side here, but let's not panic and go around fighting with each other for the last rolls of toilet tissue. The DK organizers are being smart, IMO, in not making a rash chicken-little decision, and I salute them for doing so. There's no harm in reassessing in a couple of weeks, and maybe again a couple of weeks later. What's there to lose by waiting and watching? You don't know whether to increase your mileage and train for it or not? First world problem - get over yourself.

Also, keep in mind that most of us will probably encounter this virus and probably only a minority will get sick. All our social distancing is doing is preventing a spike in really sick folks that might overwhelm our health care system. It's not going to make the virus go away any sooner, actually quite the opposite - the earlier that young and healthy people that can contract and get over the virus, the earlier it'll disappear - i.e. herd immunity. So, sure, COVID might be around for 6 months, but we're not interested in that number. We're only interested in how high and where the peak is.

youcancallmeAl said...

youre RIGHT

Guitar Ted said...

@ nellborg - You say " Until more is known, I agree that it's best to be well on the conservative side here.."

The rest of your comment pales in meaning compared to that statement.

Cory said...

@guitarted I agree with your piece here. Better safe than sorry. That said I agree with @nellborg also in that we don't know how serious this will be. So far reports are that H1N1 and SARS were WAY worse. At the time those were going around I had a job traveling 4 states and going into peoples houses daily. I never got sick (knock on wood). Yesterday our local news station KMA radio wrote that the cases in Iowa had increased some. They also wrote that test kits were in short supply. And they also said that doctors stated that 80% of those infected won't even need a test because illnesses will be very mild such as a common cold. So lets practice safety and not take chances by cancelling events if we need to but let's also not freak out and panic. We'll get through this :)

W said...

Nellborg is overlooking these facts: a lot of the people being hospitalized are under 65. If you get hospitalized, there's a possibility you could have permanent lung damage.

The herd immunity thing is kind of a last resort plan. The UK apparently was thinking about just letting the coronavirus run its course and infect most of the population, then they realized that this would leave as many as a quarter million dead. And they figured that wasn't such a good idea. Similarly, we should not bank on the herd immunity thing. By the way, if we get that many cases, the health system is totally overwhelmed, and we lose a lot of people who could have been saved. And not just people our parents' age, either.

Remember also that if you're young, and you get it, you can infect others. You may not get a bad case of the infection, but others may not be so lucky.

We need to stay home, and Kanza needs to tell people to stay home.

Scott said...

New evidence is starting to suggest that the virus is primarily spreading by simply breathing (google Dr Michael Osterholm). Washing your hands/using sanitizer is not unimportant, but it cannot overcome the problem of sharing air with an infected individual. Think about a packed race start line, how long it takes for the field to spread out in a large race, a small or large peloton.
Here's some other assumptions a lot of people of making with the dangerous promotion of herd immunity. No reinfection? Hospitals won't be overwhelmed? Those who recover have no permanent damage to their respiratory system? We simply do not know the answers to these questions. In the absence of reliable data we must REDUCE RISK.

blooddoc23 said...

Lets say 5,000 people roll through town for the DK (I dont know if thats accurate but riders support, vendors etc) Case fatality rate of 1 percent. That may be high for that population. Half the people get infected. 1% of 2500 is 25 deaths. If the case fatality rate is even half a percentage, 12 deaths. Even one death is too much because of a bike event. WE have to think in those terms. Its entirely possible that the world may look a lot different by then as well. Its my opinion the race should be called.

Adrienne Taren said...

Thank you Guitar Ted for your words.
I'm also heartened to see so many commenters above taking this seriously and being well-informed citizens. Cyclists are good people. Stay together apart, folks.
- ER worker/cyclist

Rydn9ers said...

You're wrong... you told me to tell you that and I always listen to my elders. Hope you and yours are safe during this pandemic.