It’s been 116 days since the last officially sanctioned bicycle race happened in Oregon.
The coronavirus crisis forced the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA) to cancel all races on March 12th. What was expected to be a four week hiatus turned into nearly four months. Dozens of events have been cancelled statewide, resulting in a major blow to OBRA’s finances, a hit to promoters’ pocketbooks, lots of frustrated athletes, and a loss of tourism dollars for the many cities and small towns that host races.
That sad streak will be broken this Sunday when racers show up to Blodgett, Oregon (just west of Corvallis) for the 33rd annual Mudslinger cross-country mountain bike race.
This is the first race with a newly-required Covid-19 mitigation plan vetted by OBRA’s medical advisory team. That means it will look and feel a lot different than any mountain bike race in Oregon history.
For starters, the format has been changed to a time trial. That means racers will be sent off solo at set intervals over the course of several hours. Winners will be determined by elapsed time, not by where they finish in the pack. That’s just one change Mudslinger promoter Mike Ripley had to make in order to get the green light.
In addition to comprehensive signage to remind participants about distancing and mask requirements, and copious steps to ensure cleanliness (porta-potties will be 8-10 feet apart), here are a few other measures that will be taken:
– Face coverings will be required when not on the course.
– Racers on course must have a mask/face covering available to use.
– “Racers will be required to pull up face covering or mask when passing and be instructed to not come any closer than 2.5 bike lengths (or 15 feet) to the rider in front unless making a pass that can stick.”
– No drafting allowed (there will be observers on course to monitor behavior).
– No spectators allowed, except for the parent/guardian of a minor.
(Read the full mitigation plan here.)
In a recent survey of OBRA’s 4,500 members (with just over 1,000 responses), 53% of respondents said they wouldn’t register for an event if mask-wearing was required. 17% of respondents said they are “not concerned at all” about coronavirus and are “ready to race” while 50% said they are somewhat concerned but would consider racing if mitigation measures were in place. Just 22% said they were “very concerned” about Covid-19 and 11% said they won’t race at all in 2020 because of it.
With virus cases spiking in Oregon, OBRA Executive Director Chuck Kenlan said his organization is, “committed to following all government and permitting agency guidelines.” “These are uncharted waters,” Kenlan wrote in an email to members last week. “I understand that people have strong feelings on whether we should be traveling and racing during these times… The OBRA board, staff, and race promoters are doing our best to keep our ridership safe and chasing that checkered flag.”
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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