Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The Elephant In The Room: 2021

 NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

 Last year I wrote about the possibilities of cancellations for 2020 gravel events in light of the then, new COVID-19 virus. Well, we can all look back with 20-20 vision and see what the results were. (Pun intended)

Also, since that time we all have kept hearing about a 'return to normal' and wondering when that would happen. Many thought that the Fall of 2020 would be that time. Nope! 

So, we rolled into 2021 with the pandemic still wreaking havoc, but now we have a vaccine! So, everyone is getting all revved up to 'get back to normal' and have events again. Some events are hesitating, waiting out to see how things go- ala last Spring- and some have bailed already. (Mid-South did this just last week)

Some are concerned about the 'most vulnerable communities' who need to be protected, and that's admirable and right, but what about the folks who are much younger who contract COVID, get sick, and in many cases do not fully recover, or worse, die. It happens. You cannot predict who will and who will not succumb, so saying, "Well, I got it and it was no big deal.", or "I just am not seeing this in my community" doesn't negate the fact that at anytime, anyone could get COVID-19 bad, have it permanently alter their life, or have it kill them. In fact, statements like this are really pretty self-serving. Pretty shallow, if you want to know what I think.

Secondly, I brought this up on the blog last week, but the vaccination of 328.2million US citizens to a 60% level, or higher, to achieve a level where we can even start to entertain returning to normal, takes a while. Experts are saying late Summer at the earliest. Things like this are why it is likely that the Summer Olympics in Japan are to be cancelled. This is why some events here have cancelled already. 

Oh, and then there is the question of just how long is a vaccination good for. Guess what? We don't know that answer yet. So, many folks getting vaccinated today? Well, guess what? They may need to get it again in late Summer. We just are not 100% sure on that, again, relying on experts I have researched. And by the way, you can check this out for yourself. The information- good information- is out there if you know where to look. 

All this leads up to something I saw yesterday on Twitter. Here's the first Tweet I want to reference. It comes from the organization responsible for the 'RAGBRAI-like' ride across Kansas, Biking Across Kansas. 

Next, I came across a Tweet from a media personality in the cycling genre' who was passing on some information concerning Unbound Gravel. Read this and contrast what it says against the previous Tweet shown:

So, one event cancels, the other is ploughing ahead headlong into the unknown. (Perhaps this is what it means to be 'unbound'?) Anyway.......................I will give you that Unbound has left themselves an 'out', or rather, shall we say, they have left themselves a possibility to make money. Let's compare and contrast organizations here a moment. 

BAK (Biking Across Kansas) started out as the facilitator of the annual ride across Kansas which started in 1976. It limits participation to 850 riders and costs approximately $275.00 each for the week. As far as I can find, BAK.org is a small 'touring company' and only does this event in Kansas. Unbound Gravel, on the other hand, is owned by Life Time Fitness, who in turn were bought out in 2015 by TPG and Leonard Green & Partners LP. The Life Time Fitness business was estimated to be worth 4 billion at the time of the sale. 

Getting into the Unbound 200 costs $240.00 a head In non-COVID times about 1500 riders were in the DK200, this event's predecessor, but other distances are available and they estimate that about 4,000 folks could possibly ride the event now. (Keep in mind- Unbound has never happened yet) A quick check of the 2021 event site shows that Unbound is not offering up any clues as to if there will be any roster restrictions, or if there are no restrictions. They also are not specifying exact measures, (crowd limit numbers, distancing protocol specifics, etc) that will be taken for COVID protocol, only describing overall measures. 

You can draw your own conclusions, but one thing is very clear- Smaller organizations are much quicker on their feet than corporate behemoths. I would also imagine that motivations for the Unbound to happen are a LOT more complex and maybe not as simple like a direct, more home-grown approach event like the BAK.

That said, in one sense it shouldn't matter if you are corporate or a small organization when lives are at risk. I am just amazed at the level of disconnect that is observable from event organizations all the way through to individuals who are seemingly not seeing the seriousness of the issues we are faced with. In my opinion, making plans to go forward with any large scale event which will draw individuals from across the nation and potentially internationally before the end of Summer is pure folly and irresponsible.


NY Roll said...

I really think the responsible thing as Race Director to do is a few thing. #1 Assess the risk and the impact of COVID on the host community. (Did it already run its course, has it done a good job of preventing outbreaks), #2 Do not have registration till the week of the event and scale your numbers down. I do not buy this 6 feet with masks bull dookie, I like 12 feet. #3 Re-Think your format, this mass start format is silly, with or without masks. I did a mass start in October, I was in the back like 40 feet off the last line of people, imagining that viral load cloud hanging in there. #4 Limit who can enter, yup, do you want a person from New Jersey showing up to your Iowa race? Yeah, I hate to be that guy, but I would just make the race a smaller format and more local event. I think national events and the bike companies pushing them to go national, need to realize their part of the formula. If they are going virtue signal, how about they practice it with their pocket books and go minimalist this year. Listen to the reality of the vaccine, you still have to wear a mask after getting it, as you can still be infected and spread it. Me personally, I am waiting for the J&J vaccine which is a traditional vaccine. Yeah, all this is my opinion and events need to scale back on their size and whom attends. Stop doing it for the money, and start having fun with it. a 50 person event is easier on the staff, and generally is more fun IMO. I am still proud we bailed on COG 100 in 2020 and 2021, it was the right call. We are not part of the community of Grinnell, and for us to impose that upon them was unfair. Simple manners, your G-Ma tried teaching you would do a lot of good these days.

Tomcat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
graveldoc said...

I agree with your assessment Mark. It's a shame but would be a bigger shame if an event would result in further danger to innocent bystanders. It might put cycling in a bad light as well. We need to be concerned for others.

james said...

"300 plus billion US citizens"

Did you type this up late at night?

Bob said...

The Eastern Trail Alliance announced today they will "host the 2021 Maine Lighthouse Ride. This event is increasingly popular with Mainers as well as friends and supporters from all over the county. The scheduled date for the event is September 11, 2021, and online registration is planned to begin on March 1, 2021."

In 2020 the event was a no-fee "experience" where one could buy a jersey and ride the courses (20mi, 40mi, 100K, 100mi) at any time during the specified week. Now, the "ride" is back and, hopefully, formatted in a rational and reasonable "COVID-friendly" way. Details, though, are not-yet-specified.

I will register in support of their fund raising activities, but whether I attend or not will be determined as we get closer to September and I perform my own COVID risk assessment.