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.