While cycling season may be here, competition season will have to keep its distance. Only a few weeks away from its original start date, the Aspen Cycling Club said it’ll have to wait a bit longer to put on its first events of 2020 because of social distancing and the new coronavirus.
“We are staying optimistic,” second-year club president Andy Ralston said. “This is all contingent on the state and the federal government and our local public health agency allowing gatherings of more than five people at that point in time, which is totally up in the air at this point.”
The Aspen Cycling Club is a local nonprofit that hosts weekly road and mountain bike races throughout the Roaring Fork Valley during the summer months. The first races typically happen in early May, but Ralston said the target date for a first race is now early June, and this is more of a guess than anything.
While Gov. Jared Polis has announced an easing of current stay-at-home orders in the coming weeks, officials have also said basic social distancing practices and the limiting of large groups will likely remain in place for months.
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“We are trying to balance between being smart and sensitive and being good members of our local community from a health perspective and not potentially straining the local medical system,” Ralston said. “Balancing on the other side is that we are a valued part of the community and people are itching to get outside and do stuff and have fun and ride bikes. It’s certainly a balancing act between being conservative and erring on the side of caution and also recognizing the value of our events.”
Should the club get racing underway in June — effectively canceling a quarter of its season — it plans to start with a series of time trials, which are usually less attended and require natural social distancing through their one-at-a-time approach.
The more popular races would then be saved for later in the summer when the situation has hopefully improved surrounding COVID-19.
Ralston did say the club is looking at an operating budget that is 10% to 15% less than in recent years due to sponsorship losses. Sponsorships and other charitable donations make up the bulk of the club’s budget, with the rest coming primarily from membership and race fees.
“We are up against the loss of some sponsor revenue at this point in time. Not a serious loss,” Ralston said. “Scheduling fewer events means saving on some costs, but also bringing in less race revenue. We are doing a lot of different budget scenarios here just to see what we can sustainability and realistically offer this summer.”
Still, the greatest hurdle will remain the coronavirus, which leaves the club and its racers with nothing more than a best guess on when they can kick the competition season into a higher gear.
“Ultimately we will err on the side of caution because that’s the necessary thing to do,” Ralston said. “The good thing about our organization is we are able to be pretty flexible. We have really cooperative and understanding organizations that do our permits. People seem to be willing to be flexible with us, so we are able to adjust on the fly.”