Hopefully you’ve kept training during the coronavirus lockdown and not simply sat on the couch watching replays of games long past. While the sports world has mostly been shut down amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Aspen Cycling Club said it’s time to return to real racing.
After a two-month long delay, ACC president Andy Ralston confirmed Tuesday the long-awaited season would finally make its 2020 debut on Wednesday, July 1.
“We are excited to get going. Very grateful to our race directors, who put together our safety protocols and guidelines,” Ralston said. “It’s been a regular cycle of waiting and then trying to get something to work. Then it doesn’t work so we wait some more and then try again and just repeat that over and over again. And now we’ve gotten the go ahead from Pitkin and Eagle counties, so we are feeling great.”
The club, a local nonprofit, announced it would embark on a 12-race schedule this summer, beginning next week and going each Wednesday through the Sept. 16 finale. The lineup features six road and six mountain bike races, alternating each week.
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The catch to make all of this work alongside the necessary safety protocols is that each event will be raced as a time trial with strict social distancing measures in place. Essentially, racers show up when told to, go record the fastest time they can, and then go home. Spectators won’t be allowed, nor will lingering at the start and finish areas.
“We are feeling very confident that what we’ll be doing will be as safe or safer than just going out on a trail on a normal bike ride,” Ralston said. “There is no real group element. There will only be a maximum of 10 people at a time at the start or finish line. So we are feeling good.”
A popular element to the summer-long slate is the battle in the overall points standings, something the club will still have this season in its time trial series. In order to compete for the overall crowns, racers will still need to fulfill certain requirements as in previous summers, such as volunteering on trail day and helping out during races.
The club is offering a reduced-rate season membership of $110, or just over $9 per race. Despite the uncertainty of the season happening at all, Ralston said many people signed up via the member-sponsorship route early in the spring, knowing that money could end up being nothing more than a donation if racing couldn’t return.
“I don’t know the exact number, but we got a good number of supporters. We even had some members who donated extra,” Ralston said. “We’ll still be heavily reliant on volunteer support, and we’ll be providing volunteers with gloves and hand sanitizers and disposable masks if they need them and making sure they are able to help out as safely as possible.”
There will be no on-site registration, so racers will need to sign up ahead of time through the ACC website. Racers will pick up their bibs ahead of their first race and continue to use them throughout the season. Start times will be posted the night before each race, and results posted as soon as possible following the race.
The mountain bike slate begins July 8 on Basalt Mountain, followed by time trials on Tom Blake (July 22), Glassier (Aug. 5), Sky Mountain Park (Cozyline-Deadline on Aug. 19), Smuggler (Sept. 2) and Airline-Cozyline (Sept. 16).
The road races include the Frying Pan (July 1), Missouri Heights (July 15), Maroon Bells (July 29), Emma Roubaix (Aug. 12), Spring Gulch (Aug. 26) and Lower River Road (Sept. 9). The first race of the season, which starts a few miles up Frying Pan Road from Basalt and heads toward Ruedi Reservoir, will be the longest by length of the 12 events.
“It will be a pretty proper, fast, straight time trial. It will be fun,” Ralston said. “I don’t know if a long race is good or bad for your first race of the year. It means you are suffering longer, but you don’t have to go as hard, so I can see upsides to shorter or longer for the first race. Personally I’m pretty excited for it.”
The club tentatively is still planning to hold an awards banquet on Sept. 23, although the jury is still out on what that looks like. Usually held at the Limelight Hotel, Ralston said that same affair likely won’t be possible, but they are looking into a virtual banquet or something outdoors with plenty of social distancing.
The key to making any of this work will be safety. Any sort of coronavirus outbreak among riders at their events could spell an early end to an already shortened season, which is why the club will continue to stress the importance of social distancing during the time trials.
“We’ve all been living with coronavirus for three months now, so we all know what we are supposed to be doing and we all just need to do it and keep it front of mind all the time,” Ralston said. “My only concern is that people will forget and won’t be paying enough attention. But we trust our racers to take it seriously and be smart.”
Go to http://www.aspencyclingclub.org for more info and to register.