Cyclocross

Coronavirus Claims NAHBS, Will Sea Otter Be Next? – Cyclocross Magazine

The novel Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is taking its toll on the world, and the cycling world, while insignificant to the rising death toll, has not been immune. Supply chains have been disrupted, product launches are delayed, bike races have been canceled, athletes quarantined, and team directors have dismissed the risks and then reconsidered.

We’ve been lucky to escape such health or sporting impacts, but knew the virus would soon impact the cycling world closer to home. Last week, Cyclocross Magazine reached out to framebuilder and NAHBS promoter Don Walker to inquire whether his March show in Dallas, Texas was continuing as planned or whether the coronavirus (COVID 19) would impact the show.

The eye candy of NAHBS will have to wait five more months in 2020, due to the Coronavirus. photo: NAHBS 2016. © Cyclocross Magazine

Walker spoke with us on the phone, but would not comment on the record at the time. He did confirm that we were the first media to ask him about the virus’ impact on the show, and suggested staying tuned as he was investigating alternatives to his March 20-22, 2020 dates.

Now Walker has made his decision, and it’s, unfortunately, to delay NAHBS 2020 until August 21-23. “This was an extremely hard decision to make, as I know we’ve all been preparing throughout the winter and early spring for this gathering of our industry,” Walker said when officially announcing his decision. “I understand all of the sacrifices and expenses that have been incurred and understand the inconvenience of this situation for everyone. But my primary priority is to protect the health and safety of our amazing community and feel postponing the show is in our best interest.”

Walker’s full statement is at the bottom of this post.

2020 Sea Otter Classic at Risk

NAHBS typically has several hundred exhibitors and several thousand attendees, and was scheduled in a state that currently has 11 COVID-19 cases. Meanwhile, Sea Otter, scheduled for April 16-19 in Monterey County, California, brings in an order of magnitude more exhibitors, and tens of thousands of attendees.

It’s a prime time for shaking hands, giving high-fives and athletes signing autographs. It also brings a very international group of exhibitors and athletes together in one area.

Sea Otter cyclocross racing is long gone, but could COVID-19 cancel the whole 2020 event? photo: Lance Haidet celebrates his win in the Men’s race. 2018 Sea Otter Classic Cyclocross Race, Pro Men and Women. © J. Silva / Cyclocross Magazine

Cyclocross Magazine reached out to the Sea Otter team last week to ask about COVID-19’s potential impact on the show. At the time, Santa Clara County, just 40 miles away, had only three cases of Coronavirus.

As the cases in nearby Santa Clara County grew from 3 to 9 to 11, we kept following up to see if we could get an official response or update. This week, the organization said they were watching and determining the best course of action, and actively considering the next steps, but wouldn’t answer any scenario-based questions.

Now, the organization has an official update from Frank Yohannan, CEO and President of Sea Otter:

We are carefully monitoring the coronavirus situation. We’ve been in discussions with various agencies to determine the best course of action regarding the 2020 Sea Otter Classic. Your health and welfare is our primary concern.

We will make a final decision on our position within a couple of days.  As you can imagine there are many consequences to consider and we appreciate your patience.

Postponement or Cancellation Seems Inevitable

While the organization has not yet announced a postponement or cancellation, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which the races, expo and gathering would go on as planned. France has banned gatherings with more than 5,000 people, the UK is considering implementing similar controls, while Switzerland has gone further to stop all public and private gatherings of 1,000 or more.

California has 40 COVID-19 cases currently, and that’s multiplying quickly. While the CDC’s report of U.S. cases may seem low compared to other countries like Italy, Iran, South Korea and China, the U.S. has also suffered from a shortage of tests. One Canadian province claims to have tested twice as many people than were tested in the U.S., and the CDC has stopped disclosing the number of people tested for the virus.

So what? The lack of tests kept numbers low, and didn’t accurately reflect the virus’ prevalence and didn’t arm affected patients with the knowledge to self-quarantine.

Skeptics might cite the larger flu stats compared to COVID-19, but we’re also dealing with a virus 20 times the mortality rate of the common flu, in a society that is unlikely to be put on lockdown as China did in Wuhan. Given some dire projections, it seems like Sea Otter’s April date is a risky bet.

Sure, the average attendee is likely athletic and healthy and at lower risk than the elderly or those suffering from chronic health conditions. But they can help accelerate the spread of the virus, turning an event focused on two-wheel fun into no fun at all.

Full Announcement from NAHBS founder Don Walker:

As I sit here watching the news, there is nothing positive about the state of the world in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Its grasp on the planet is ever strengthening as it continues to spread globally, including Europe, Asia, and now here in the USA.

Based on current news reports and travel restrictions, and in talking to many NAHBS exhibitors, media, and partners over the past week, I’ve made the difficult decision to postpone NAHBS and reschedule this year’s show.  As a global show that attracts people from all parts of the world, and in evaluating the current variables and public health risks, I feel this is in everyone’s best interest.

The new dates for NAHBS 2020 are Friday August 21st – Sunday August 23rd at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. Move-in date for exhibitors will be Thursday August 20th.

Exhibitor booth space purchased for the March 20 – 22 show dates will be carried over to the August 21 – 23 dates. We’ll provide each exhibitor a new contract reflecting new show dates in the coming days. For anyone that has any questions or concerns, or that is unable to attend NAHBS 2020 in August, please contact me at [email protected] or by phone at 502-424-2225.

This was an extremely hard decision to make, as I know we’ve all been preparing throughout the winter and early spring for this gathering of our industry. I understand all of the sacrifices and expenses that have been incurred and understand the inconvenience of this situation for everyone. But my primary priority is to protect the health and safety of our amazing community and feel postponing the show is in our best interest.

I’m praying diligently that everyone in our industry remains safe and healthy, and I look forward to seeing everyone in August. Thank you for your patience and understanding. 

Sincerely,
Don Walker
NAHBS, Founder & President

Update from Sea Otter:

Dear Sea Otter Supporters:

We are carefully monitoring the coronavirus situation. We’ve been in discussions with various agencies to determine the best course of action regarding the 2020 Sea Otter Classic. Your health and welfare is our primary concern.

We will make a final decision on our position within a couple of days.  As you can imagine there are many consequences to consider and we appreciate your patience.

Our sympathy goes out to those affected by [the] Coronavirus and we extend our gratitude to all health care workers fighting to contain its spread.

Best regards,

Frank Yohannan
President & CEO
Sea Otter Classic, Inc.